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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 French to relinquish the possession of the town, which this position completely commanded. These advantages, which the centre of the army had obtained, soon spread through the whole line of their operations. General St. Cyr gained some fresh and important victories on the Prince of Wittgenstem: 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 P alontina, 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 Russiams having 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 :
“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 coh
sidered 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
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 Ottoman 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-Saimiche (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 determine 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 the custom of laying waste the country and setting fire to the villages they abandoned, and the French very soon had occasion to experience the truth of these observations. Napoleon having advanced beyond Sbridneva, the fourth corps, to join him, was obliged to cross an immense ravime, on the opposite side of which the Russians had established some batteries, after an obstinate engagement, which had taken place during the day. Some detachments having been sent to attack them, the Cossacks rushed from the wood, crying “ hurra,” a cry since become too celebrated. The fourth corps, however, having passed the ravine, effected their junction with the advanced guard of the grand army, commanded by the King of Naples. They distinguished him from afar by his white plume, as stationed at the head of his troops, animating them to the combat by his own example. The Russians, though obliged to fall back with great loss,
intending still to arrest the progress of the French, had devas
tated, in the most frightful manner, all the plain in which they were forced to encamp. The corn, though yet green, had been cut, the woods destroyed, and the villages burnt, so that they found no food for their horses, nor shelter for themselves. About the middle of the day Napoleon joined his advanced guard, and took his station on an eminence, whence he could easily command the whole camp of the enemy. After having iong and attentively regarded their position, and carefully observed all the adjacent country, he began to hum some insignificant tune. He then conversed a moment with the Viceroy, and mounting his horse, he went to consult the Prince of Eckmuhl.
“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, which was the weakest part of their intrenched camp. Napoleon understood this, and saw the necessity of taking that redoubt. The *honour 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 enterprise. In the meantime, Prince Poniatowski manoeuvred 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 sueceeded 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 army. “ The division of Compans, in proving itself worthy of the brilJiant enterprise with which it was intrusted, purchased that honour with considerable loss. The acquisition of this important position - \ CO3t
cost us the lives of 1,200 of our men, more than half of whom remained dead in the intrenchments which they had so gloriously car. . fied. As Napoleon was on the following morning reviewing the 61st.
regiment, which had suffered most, he asked the colonel what he
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 Kutusoff thus wrote to the Emperor Alexander. “ The positiou 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 dome at Witepsk and Valoutina.
... “‘Here, however, our rapid marches, and the distance of our
be the unhappy victims. They then thought of their parents,
their country; and the uncertainty whether they should ever see
* “Each army consisted of 120, or 130,000 men.”
T compelled WOL, IW, SEPT. 1815.