Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* A natural curiosity-made me proceed. . As I advanced to
wards the fire, the avenues were more obstructed by soldiers and
beggars carrying off goods of every kind. The less precious articles
were despised, and soon thrown away, and the streets were co-
vered with merchandise of every description. I penetrated, at
length into the interior of the Exchange; but, alas! it was no
more the building so renowned for its magnificence; it was rather
a vast furnace, from every side of which the burning rafters were
continually falling, and threatening us with instant destruction.
I could still, however, proceed with some degree of safety under
the piazzas.

These were filled with numerous warehouses which
the soldiers had broken open, every chest was rifled, and the
spoil exceeded their most sanguine expectations. No cry, no tu-
mult was heard in this scene of horror. Every one found abun-
dantly sufficient to satisfy his thirst for plunder. Nothing was
heard but the crackling of the flames, the noise of the doors that
were broken open, and occasionally a dreadful crash caused by
the falling in of some vault. Cottons, muslins, and in short all
the most costly productions of Europe and of Asia, were a prey
to the flames. The cellars were filled with sugar, oil, and vitriol
these burning all at once in the subterraneous warehouses, sent
forth torrents of Aame through thick iron grates, and presented a
striking iipage of the mouth of hell. : It was a spectacle both tera
rible and affecting. Even the most hardened minds acknowledged
the conviction that so great a calamity would, on some future day,
call forth the vengeance of the Almighty upon the authors of such
crimes." P. 192,
“ But wbat was our regret and our terror, when on the

morrow,
at the dawn of day (September 16), we saw the conflagration
raging extensively, and perceived that the wind, blowing with vio-
fence, spread the flames in every direction.

“ The most heart-rending scene which my imagination had ever conceived, fai surpassing the saddest story in ancient or modern history, now presented itself to my eyes. A great part of the population of Moscow, terrified at our arrival, had concealed themselves in cellars or secret recesses of their houses. As the fire spread around, we saw them rushing in despair from their various asylums. They uttered no imprecation, they breathed no com plaint; fear had rendered them dumb, and hastily snatching up their most precious effects, they fled before the flames. Others, of greater sensibility, and actuated by the genuine feelings of nature saved only their parents, or their infants, who were closely clasped in their arms. They were followed by their other children, running as fast as their little strength would permit, and with all the wild. ness of childish terror, vociferating the beloved name of mother. The old people, borne down by grief more than by age, had not sufficient power to follow their families, and expired near the houses in which they were born. The streets, the public places, and particularly the churches, were filled with these unhappy

peopie;

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

పాటుగా ఉన్న వారు కారు బలంగా ములుగా

people, who, lying on the remains of their property, suffered even without a murmur. No cry, no complaint was heard. Both the conqueror and the conquered were equally hardened; the one by excess of fortune, the other by excess of misery.

-66-The fire, whose ravages could not be restrained, soon reached the finest parts of the city. Those palaces which we had admired for the beauty of their architecture, and the elegance of their fur. niture, were enveloped in the flames. Their magnificent fronts, ornamented with bas-reliefs and statues, fell with a dreadful crash on the fragments of the pillars which had supported them. The churches, though covered with iron and lead, were likewise destroyed, and with them those beautiful steeples, which we had seen the night before, resplendent with gold and silver. The hospitals too, which contained more than twelve thousand wounded, soon began to burn. This offered a dreadful and harrowing spectacle. Almost all these poor wretches perished: A few who still lingered, were seen crawling half burnt amongst the smoking ruins; and others, groaning under heaps of dead bodies, endeavoared in vain to extricate themselves from the horrible destruction which sarrounded them." P. 205.

At this time permission was granted to the French to pillage that which was destined to be the prey of the flaines; and the reader may imagine the confusion and tumult which were produced by licentiousness. Soldiers, suttlers, galley-slaves, and prostitutes, eagerly ran through the streets, penetrating into the desert palaces, and carryiug away every thing which could gratify their avarice. Some covered themselves with stuffs richly worked with gold, some were enveloped in beautiful and costly furs, while others dressed themselves in women's and children's pelisses," and even the galley-slaves concealed their rags under the most splendid court dresses;" the rest crowded into the cellars, and forcing open the doors, drank the most luscious wines, and carried off an immense booty.

“ This terrible pillage," observes our author, was not confined to the deserted houses alone, but extended to those who were inhabited, and soon the eagerness and wantonness of the plunderers, caused devastations which almost equalled those occasioned by the conflagration. Every asylum was soon violated by the licentious troops.

The inhabitants who had officers in their houses, for a little while, flattered themselves that they should escape the general calamity. Vain illusion!

The fire progresa sively increasing soon destroying all their hopes."

« Penetrated by so many calamities, I hoped that the shades of night would cast à vèil over the dreadful scene, but they contributed, on the contrary, to render the conflagration more terrible. The violence of the flames, which extended from north to south, and were strangely agitated by the wind, produced the most awful

appearance they YOL TY, OCTOBER, 1815.

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

appearance, on a sky which was darkened by the thickest smoke Frequently 'was seen the glare of the burning torches, which the incendiaries were hurling from the tops of the highest towers, on those parts of the city which had yet escaped destruction, and which resembled at a distance so many passing meteors. Nothing could equal the anguish that absorbed every feeling heart, and which was increased in the dead of the night, by the cries of the miserable victims who were savagely murdered, or by the screams of the young females, who fled for protection to their weeping mothers, and whose ineffectual struggles tended only to inflame the passion of their violators. To these dreadful groans and heartrending cries, which every moment broke upon the ear, were added, the howling of the dogs, which, chained to the doors of the palaces, according to the custom at Moscow, could not escape from the fire which surrounded them.

Overpowered with regret, and with terror, I flattered myself that sleep would for a while release me from these revolting scenes ; but the most frightful recollections crowded upon me, and all the horrors of the day again passed in review. My wearied senses seemed at last sinking into repose, when the light of the near and dreadful conflagration piercing into my room, suddenly awoke me, I thought that my chamber was a prey to the flames. It was no idle dream, for when I approached the window, I saw that our quarters were on fire, and that the house in which I lodged was in the utmost danger. Sparks were thickly falling in our yard, and on the wooden roof of our stables. Į ran quickly to my landlord and his family. Perceiving their danger, they had al. ready quitted their habitation, and had retired to a subterranean vault which afforded them more security. I found them with their servants all assembled there, nor could I prevail on them to leave it, for they dreaded our soldiers more than the fire. The father was sitting on the threshold of the vault, and appeared desirous of first exposing himself to the calamities which threatened his family. Two of his daughters, pale, with dishevelled hair, and whose tears added to their beauty, disputed with him the honour of the sacrifice. It was not without violence that I could snatch them from the building, under which they would otherwise soon have been buried. When these unhappy creatures again saw the light, they contemplated within difference the loss of all their property, and were only astonished that they were still alive. Though they were con vinced that no personal injury would now be offered them, they exhibited not any tokens of gratitude; but resembled those mişerable criminals, who, having been ordered to execution, are bewil. dered when a reprieve unexpectedly arrives, and whom the agonies of death render insensible to the gift of life.” P. 211.

The conflagration did not cease for four whole days, and during this tine, and long after, the galley-slaves signalized themselves by the audacity with which they executed the orders

D

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

was

[ocr errors]

they had received. Provided with phosphorus, they lighted the fire a new wherever it appeared to be extinguished. The French shot several of these wretches. But their punishment being thus too prompt and summary, produced little effect. During this time the army bivouacked in the middle of the fields, ander grottos, Chinese pavilions, and green houses.

“ This picturesqué camp," observes our author, rendered still more extraordinary by the new costume adopted by the soidiers, most of whom, to shelter themselves from the inclemency of the weather, had put on the same clothing which used to be seen at Moscow.

Thus we saw,'

continues Mr. Labaume, walking in our camp, soldiers dressed à la Tartare, à la Cosaque, à la Chinoise ; one wore the Polish cap, another the high bonnet of the Persians, the Baskirs, or the Kalmouks. In short our army presented the image of a carvival.”

In the mean tine the soldiers still went on marauding, and in digging amongst the ruins they discovered entire magazines, whence they drew a profusion of articles of every description. Though encamped in the fields and exposed to the inclemency of the weather, they ate off China plates, drank out of silver vases, and possessed almost every elegant and expensive article which luxury could invent. But this vain shew of artificial and use. Jess wealth, was soon succeeded by real want. Brandy and sugar, coffee and wine were very plentiful in the camp, but the soldiers had no bread, and the liorses no forage.

Napoleon stopped at Moscow five weeks, and during this time he lost all the fruit of liis victory, and gave an opportunity to the weather and to the enemy to annihilate his army.

He did so against the advice of his generals, and particularly of Ney and Murat, who, together with many of the rest did not forgive him for the scorn with which he received their councils. It is notorious, that seeing the ruins of Moscow, and the desolated state of the country, immediately after the conflagration all the French generals endeavoured to persuade Napoleon to retreat ;

and had he adopied so wise a plan he would have been able to reach Poland, or at least Smolensko, long before the winter or the Russians had acquired sufficient strength to make any impression on his army. luxtead of that he lost all the time which he qught to have employed in marching, and thus he offered an opportunity to the Russians to excite a general insurtection against him, and to post their arinies on the different roads by which he was to pass, at a time when famine and cold had already thinned his ranks.

Considered in this point of view, the general opinion, which ascribes to the Russians the credit of having effected his total

[ocr errors]

the en ect. ds

red 50HT

be Taey ( Co Egh

ort

end -ES 01. of ses, ich se. car,

tuin by the burning of Moscow, may be liable to soine objection. If the annihilation of the French arıny proceeded from the effect of the time which the Russians had to reorganize Hew troops, and of the winter, which overtook Napoleon in his retreat, it is clear that the burning of Moscow was the very measure which would have saved him, by compelling the French to evacuate the town and retreat to Smolensko sooner than the Russians could have collected a sufficient force to oppose them, and even sooner than the winter could have overtaken them on the road. And indeed had Bonaparte listened to the advice of his generals he would have had nearly two months of fine weather, during which time he would have retreated unmolested, since the Russians could not have bad time to collect the forces, with which they overpowered his army.

To justify the Russians it has been asserted that their governa

ent had reason to fear, from the character of Napoleon, that the population of Moscow, instead of revolting against the French, might have become instrumental to their projects, and that many of the inhabitants led away by an example so dangerous, and seduced by brilliant promises, might have abandoned the interests of their country. Be this as it may, the extraordinary success which crowned this bold and gigantic meae sure, is not to be attributed so much to the policy of the Ruge sians, but to the obstinacy of Bonaparte, who, led away by fallacious representations, hoped to intimidate the Czar into a peace.

However it must be owned that this hope of Bonaparte was, not without soine foundation, it is notorious that the Emperor Alexander had already listened to the terms which had been offered to him; and that the Archduke Constantine was actually on his road to Moscow to treat with Napoleon. This he knew, and for this reason he rejected the advice of his generals, and remained to wait for the arrival of Constantine. But the Russian nobles, who did not wish to submit to Bonaparte, because they had been ruined by his continental system, stopped the Archduke and obliged him to return back. Napoleon at last bea came acquainted with the transaction; but it was too late to remedy the loss of time he had lavisher away, and notwithe standing all his activity he could not begin his retreat before the 18th of October.

ers

his ity He of

“ Those who did not witness the departure of the French army from Moscow, can forin but a faint idea of what the Greek and Roman armies were, when they abandoned the ruins of Troy or of Carthage. But they who observed the appearance of our army at this moment acknowledged the accuracy of those interese, Dd2

ing

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »