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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 speculations, the industry with which he has pursued them, and the value of his important discoveries.
[To be concluded in our next.]
ART. III. A Circumstantial Narrative of the Campaign in Russia, embellished with Plans of the Battles of the Moskwa and Malojaroslavitz, containing a faithful Description of the affecting and interesting Scenes, of which the Author was an Eye-witness. By Eugene Labaume, &c. &c.; trans
lated from the French. Third Edition, considerably improved. 8vo. 442 pp. 12s. 6d. Leigh. 1815.
SO rapidly has our imagination been hurried through a succession 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 impressions 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 memories the strange and eventful history of that bloody aid disastrous 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 wretchedness of the army of Napoleon in their retreat from Moscow, he could not have expressed in a stronger or more energetic manuer 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 exaggeration, rather than be persuaded of the truth and reality of his
s 2 ration, ,
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 upon the bed of honour, they resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, and filled with their country's glory, smile even in death. . . . . . . . . . "...a
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 formidable than the cannon, 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, umpitied among
men, made 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 en
campments and 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.
of this terrible truth. In reviewing, on the Niemen, the
wretched 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 event 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 eorps, better known by the name of the army of Italy, commanded by the Prince Viceroy Eugene Beauharnois, and of this corps especially, he speaks during the whole of the narrative, 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, * * and
and heightened by false colouring: but from him we learn, that every day he recorded the events that passed around him, and that he mow simply endeavours to communicate the impression which he then felt. It was by the light of the burning of Moscow that he described the destruction of that unfortunate city. It was on the borders of the Beresina that he sketched the decription 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 colnpanions in arms, to struggle with the most urgent necessities, pierced by the cold, tormented with hunger, a prey to every accumulated 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. Labaume speaks of Napoleon with moderation and reserve, and very worthy of notice is the interesting struggle which he feels between the indignation 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 oonqueror with moderation and reserve.”
In order to heighten the effect of his marrative, M. Labaume has preserved the memory of different anecdotes. Indeed some of them must unfortunately happen in every campaign, and our soldiers may relate many events 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 or of the conquered, lost themselves without saving their riches; to strangers, who, desirous of witnessing the tremendous 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 greatest 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-wittesses 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 an exception 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 met
with passages that would have shaken even the credulity of an
English mob, and 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 rather 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 startled at the title page, in which we are told, that this “ third edition,” is “ considerably improved.” But as this may be explained in many ways, and may signify not only a proper attention bestowed on the letter press, but also unwarrantable 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. 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 demy; 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 im
perial 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, constituted 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 Prussians, under General Grawert, and included no French, except the division of General Grandjean. - The Russian army was divided into two corps, under the denomination 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 Rossiena and Keidamou?. The second, consisting also of twenty thousand men, under General Bagawout, guarded Kowno. The third, twentyfour thousand strong, under General Schomaloff, was posted at New