Page images
PDF
EPUB

which constitute the wealth of the British empire.” Our author
has toiled in a field which was before unexplored. Without
supposing that the labour is accomplished, and the treasure of
knowledge, which was there concealed, is wholly brought to
light, we cannot sufficiently applaud the ingenuity of his specu-
lations, the industry with which he has pursued them, and the
value of his iinportant discoveries.

[To be concluded in our next.)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Art. III. A Circumstantial Narrative of the Campaign in

Russia, embellished with Plans of the Battles of the Moskwa
and Mals-jaroslavitz, containing a faithful Description of
the affecting and interesting Scenes, of which the Author
was an Eye-witness. By Eugene Labaume, &c. &c.; traris-
lated froin the French. Third Edition, considerubly im-
proved. 8vo. 449 pp. 12s.6d. Leigh. 1815.
So rapidly has our imagination been hurried through a succes-
sion of events unexampled in the records of the world, that
the two last years of our existence constitute almost an age; to
transactions even a few months prior to this momentous period,
we look back as to the deeds of former days, and the lively im-
pressions which their magnitude then made upon us, are now
lost, in the obscurity of general remembrance. To the first
grand link in this tremendous chain we are therefore happy in
finding our attention recalled by a volume, which is more worthy
of its subject than any detail, with which we have hitherto been
presented ; and which promises to preserve fresh in our memo-
ries the strange and eventful history of that bloody a d disas-
trous expedition, to which the downfall of the tyrant is so justly
to be referred.

If Dr. Johnson, when he wrote his pamphlet on the Falkland
Islands, had been desirous of detailing the misery and wretch-
edness of the army of Napoleon in their retreat from Moscow,
he could not have expressed in a stronger or more energetic
manner the havoc of war, and the hardships of a campaign.
Indeed before such an event had taken place, in looking over
those three pages so justly celebrated in our English literature,
we could not divest ourselves of that incredulity which forbid
us to believe that so much misery could really exist in nature;
our prejudice also in favour of military glory, and the feeling of
humanity itself, both concurred to bias our judgment, and
urged us to charge the learned Doctor with visionary exagge+

ration,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ration, rather than be persuaded of the truth and reality of his observations. Accustomed from our infancy to admire the deeds of valour, we looked with some sort of respect, or sometimes with envy on those brave men who have devoted their lives to the defence of their respective empires. Ignorant of the hardships of a campaign, we considered war as little more than a splendid game; a proclamation, an army, a battle, and a triumph. Some, indeed, must perish in the most successful field, but they die npon the bed of honour, they resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, and filled with their country's glory, smile even in cleath.

But the life of a modern soldier, says Johnson, now much to our purpose, is ill represented by heroic fiction. War has means of destruction more fornidable than the camnon, and the sword. Of the thousands.and thousands that perish during the course of a campaign, a very small part ever feels the stroke. of an enemy: the rest languish in tents and ships, amidst damps and putrefaction, victims of hunger and cold, pale, torpid, spiritless, and helpless; gasping and groaning, unpitied among men, macie obdurate by long continuance of helpless misery, and are at last whelmed in pits, or heaved into the ocean, without notice, and without remembrance. By incommodious encampments avd unwholesome stations, by want of food, and by exposure to all the inclemency of the severest weather, where courage is useless and enterprize impracticable, fleets are silently dispeopled, and armies sluggishly melted away. The book which now lies

open

before us is sad illustration of this terrible truth. In reviewing, on the Niemen, the tvretched remains of the followers of Napoleon, we can hardly recognize the soldiers of one of the finest armies that ever marched to a conquest in all the splendor of its attire, and in all the brilliancy of the most minute appointments, chiefly composed of veterans, full of ardour, experience, and courage, and devoted to a chief whom a long course of uninterrupted victories had made them consider as invincible. This is the kvent which Labaume intends to relate. It was the first, the only irretrievable step that hurled Napoleon from the throne.:

Our author was one of the actors in this most memorable campaign. . He was attached to the engineers of the fourth corps, better known by the name of the army of Ilaly, con manded by the Prince Viceroy Eugene Beauharnois, and of this corps especially, he speaks during the whole of the parrative.. He relates that only which he has seen. A witness of the greatest disasters that ever befel a great nation, a spectator and actor in every scene of this sad and memorable expedition, he presents the reader with no fictitious narrative, artfully arranged,

a

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and heightened by false colouring: but from him we learn, that
every day he recorded the events that passed around him, and
that he now simply endeavours to communicate the impressive
which he then felt. It was by the light of the burning of Mos-
cow that he described the destruction of that unfortunate city.
It was on the borders of the Beresina that he sketched the de-
cription of that fatal passage. By the command of Prince
Eugene he took on the spot the plans of the battles of Moskwa,
and Malo-Jaroslavitz.

" It is scarcely possible to conceive what difficulties I had to
surmount in the progress of my work. Compelled, like my coin-
panions in arms, to struggle with the most urgent necessities,
pierced by the cold, tormented with hunger, a prey to every ac-
cumulated horror; uncertain at the rising of the sun, whether I
should see its setting rays, and doubtful at night, whether I should
witness the morrow's dawn; every thought seemed concentrated
in the ardent desire to live, that I might perpetuate the memory of
what I had seen. Animated by this irresistible feeling, I retraced,
each night, the events of the day, sitting beside a wretched fire,
under a temperature of twenty or twenty-two degrees below the
freezing point, and surrounded by the dying and the dead. The
knife with which I had carved my scanty morsel of horse-flesh,
was employed in cutting a raven's quill, and a little gunpowder,
mixed with some melted snow, in the hollow of my hand, served
me for ink and inkstand.” Preface, p. ix.

In the whole course of this narrative M. Labaime speaks of Napoleon with moderation and reserve, and very worthy of notice is the interesting struggle which he feels between the ina dignation of the man, and the reverence to his general, which, as a soldier, he had been taught to consider as his paramount duty.

“ Often," says he, “ I could scarcely restrain my indignation against the author of all our misfortunes. But the respect with which his former well-earned reputation had inspired me, and the memory of the glorious victories that I had witnessed, and in the honours of which I had shared, compelled me to speak of that conqueror with moderation and reserve.”.

In order to heighten the effect of his narrative, M. Labaume has preserved the memory of different anecdotes. Indeed some of them must unfortunately happen in every campaign, and our soldiers

may relate inany evenis of the same description, which during the war on the Peninsula, happened to the Spanish ladies who had taken refuge in our camp, or were flying before our troops; to the English women who were following their husbands, who having loaded themselves with the spoils of the

dead

[ocr errors]

dead or of the conquered, lost themselves without saving their riches; to strangers, who, desirous of witnessing the treinendous sight of an army in action, increased the disorder of the retreat, and were exposed to greater inconveniences than the lowest soldier; to the wounded who had been left on the field, and who were stripped long before they were dead; to stragglers who had abandoned their ranks, urged either by the love of plunder, or overwhelmed by excess of fatigue. The fact is, that at all times a retreat produces the g eatest disorder, even in a well disciplined army; and the horrors of the plunder and conflagration of a conquered city cannot be understood but by those who have been eye-witnesses of the awful catastrophe. In this respect, to our shame and sorrow, we must confess that all nations are alike, and the severe but necessary measures which Sir John Moore and the Duke of Wellington were constrained to adopt, prove that even the English were not au ex, ception to this general rule.

However before we enter into the analysis of the narrative, we ought to inform the reader that we take for granted that the translator has done his duty; that he has preserved the spirit of the original, and the fidelity of the meaning; and in short that he has not given his own thoughts mixed with those of M. Labaume. We consider ourselves so much the more justified in taking all this for granted, since more than once we have niet with passages

that would have shaken even the credulity of an English mob, apd whicle we should have been inclined to consider as an additional and foreign ornament, rather than forming a part of the original design. Besides the appearance of their not fitting the tout ensemble of the work, we could not by any means put them in French, without destroying the ease of the narration, and without perceiving an awkwardness in the turn of the sentence, which altered the style and spoiled the whole. But not having been able to consult the original we will raiher condemn ouselves, than mistrust our unknown translator, who has enriched our language with this interesting production of M. Labaunie.

However, by way of justifying ourselves, we must observe, that we were not a little s'artled at the title page, in which we áre told, that this “third edition," is a considerably inproved.” But as this may be explained in many ways, and may signify not only a proper attention bestowed on the letter press, but also wuwarrantable liberties taken with the work, we shall be satisfied should all this considerable improvement extend no further than the goodness of the paper and the accuracy of the impression, and in this hope we proceed to lay before our readers an abstract of the narrative of the campaign in Russia.

M. Lan

[ocr errors]

M. Labaume opens his narrative with a short account of the causes that led to the war. This is certainly the worst part of the book, for though what he says may be perfectly true, yet we conceive Buonaparte to have had other objects in view, besides the ambition of atchieving new conquests, when he engaged in this memorable war. That his ambition might have supplied an additional incentive to his other motives, we do not mean to deny; but yet we shall be justified in asserting, that if Russia had not opposed his continental system, by which the ruin of this country was to have been effected, Napoleon would never have thought of his romantic expedition to Moscow. Be it as it will, having resolved on the war he collected an immense force, and divided the whole of his army into eight corps of infantry, and each of them containing at least three divisions, and one body of cavalry. To these were joined the imperial guards, composed of about fifty thousand men; and three great corps of cavalry, under the name of reserve. The total of his forces amounted to three hundred thousand infantry, and sixty thousand cavalry. More than a thousand pieces of cannon, distributed amongst the different corps, constitụted the artillery.

The Prince of Eckmuhl had long.commanded the five divisions which constituted the first corps of the army. The second was intrusted to the Duke of Reggio. The third to the Duke of Elchingen. The fourth, under the name of the army of Italy, and which contained the royal guards, was commanded by the Prince Viceroy, Prince Poniatowski, at the head of his Poles, formed the fifth corps. The Bavarians, incorporated with the sixth, were under the order of Count St. Cyr. The Saxons were counted as the seventh corps, commanded by General Regnier. The Westphaliaus, under the order of their king, Jerome Bonaparte, took rank in the army as the eighth corps. Only a skeleton of the ninth was formed, but it was destined for the Duke of Belluno, and the tenth corps, commanded by the Duke of Tarentum, was composed of Prussiany, under General Grawert, and included no French, except the division of General Grandjean.

The Russian army was divided into two corps, under the de nomination of the first and second army of the west; the one commanded by General Barclay de Tolly, and the other by Prince Bagration. The whole of them was subdivided into six divisions. The first, twenty thousand strong, and commanded by the Prince of Wittgenstein, occupied Russiena and Keïda. nouï. The second, consisting also of twenty thousand men, under General Bagawout, guarded Kowno. The third, twentyfour thousand strong, under General Schomaloff, was posteri at

New

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »