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Or cn wide waving wing expanded bear
2. What would he have said, if he had but lived to witness the immortal invention of Fulton,1' which seems almost to move In the air, and to fly on the wings of the wind? And yet how slowly did this enterprise obtain the public favor! I myself have heard the illustrious inventor relate, in an animated and affecting manner, the history of his labors and discouragements. When, said he, I was building my first steamboat at New York, the project was viewed by the public either with indifference or with contempt, as a visionary scheme. My friends, indeed, were civil, but they were shy. They listened with patience to my explanations, but with a settled cast of incredulity on their countenances. I felt the full force of the lamentation of the poet,
"Truths would you teach, to save a sinking land,
3. As I had occasion to pass daily to and from the buildingyard, while my boat was in progress, I have often loitered unknown near the idle groups of strangers, gathering in little circles, and heard various inquiries as to the object of this new vehicle. The language was uniformly that of scorn, or sneer, or ridicule. The loud laugh often rose at my expense; the dry jest; the wise calculation of losses and expenditures; the dull but endless repetition of " the Fulton Folly." Never did a single encouraging remark, a bright hope, or a warm wish, cross my path. Silence itself was but politeness veiling its doubts, or hiding its reproaches.
4. At length the day arrived when the experiment was to be put into operation. To me it was a most trying and interesting occasion. I invited many friends to go on board to witness the first successful trip. Many of them did me the favor to attend, as a matter of personal respect; but it was manifest that they did it with reluctance, fearing to be the partners of my mortification, and not of my triumph. I was well aware that, in my case, there were many reasons to doubt of my own success. The machinery was new and ill made; many parts of it were constructed by mechanics unaccustomed to such work; and unexpected difficulties might reasonably be presumed to present themselves from other causes. The moment arrived in which the word was to be given for the vessel to move My friends were in groups on the deck. There was anxiety mixed with fear among them. They were silent, and sad, and weary. I read in their looks nothing but disaster, and almost repented of my efforts.
5. The signal was given, and the boat moved on a short distance, and then stopped, and became immovable. To the silence of the preceding moment now succeeded murmurs of discontent, and agitations, and whispers, and shrugs. I could hear distinctly repeated, "I told you it would be so. It is a foolish scheme. I wish we were well out of it." I elevated myself upon a platform, and addressed the assembly. I stated that I knew not what was the matter; but, if they would be quiet and indulge me for a half-hour, I would either go on or abandon the voyage for that time. This short respite was conceded without objection. I went below, examined the machinery, and discovered that the cause was a slight mal-adjustment of some of the work. In a short period it was obviated.
6. The boat was again put in motion. She continued to move on. All were still incredulous. None seemed willing to trust the evidence of their own senses. We left the fair city of New York; we passed through the romantic and ever-varying scenery
the Highlands; we descried the clustering houses of Albany • we reached its shores; and then, even then, when all seemed achieved, I was the victim of disappointment. Imagination superseded the influence of fact. It was then doubted if it could be done again; or, if done, it was doubted if it could be made of any great value.
7. Such was the history of the first experiment, as it fell, not in the vory language which I have used, but in its substance, from the lips of the inventor. He did not live, indeed, to enjoy the full glory of his invention. It is mournful to say that attempts were made to rob him, in the first place, of the merits of his invention, and next of its fruits. He fell a victim to his efforts to sustain his title to both. Junge Story.
CLIII. — THE PASSAGE OF THE BERESINA."
I. On the twenty-fifth of November, 1812, the whole French army under Napoleon, reduced now to about twenty-eight thousand fighting men, and forty thousand stragglers, still encumbered with a quantity of baggage, were assembled on the banks of the Beresina, which they had to cross. The passage of this river was one of the most disastrous points in the retreat. The bridge of Bori'zof had been destroyed; a Russian army occupied the opposite bank of the river, and the passage appeared imprao ticable. So desperate seemed the state of affairs, that Murat" advised Napoleon to leave the army to its fate, and make his own way to Paris. Napoleon, however, refused to listen to such a proposal, and occupied himself for two days in making such preparations as should enable him to cross the river, and at the same time deceive the enemy as to the exact spot at which he intended to cross it.
2. "What a frightful picture," says Labaume," "did such a multitude of men present! Our soldiers, pale, emaciated, dying with hunger and cold, having nothing to defend them from the inclemency of the season but tattered pelisses," and half-burnt sheep-skins, and muttering the most mournful lamentations, crowded the banks of this fatal river. Germans, Poles, Italians, Spaniards, Cro'ats, Portuguese, and French, were all mingled together, disputing and quarrelling with one another in their dif. ferent languages; finally, the officers, and even the generals, wrapped in pelisses covered with dirt and filth, mingling with the soldiers, and abusing those who pressed upon them, or braved their authority, formed a scene of strange confusion, of which no painter could trace the faintest resemblance."
3. The passage of the river commenced on the twenty-seventh, two wooden bridges having been by that time hastily constructed. A considerable part of the army crossed safely during the forenoon and afternoon of that day; among the rest, Napoleon, with a division of about six thousand men, whom he marched immediately to Zembir, leaving the remainder to follow. Unfortunately, many of the stragglers preferred remaining on the left bank till the morning of the twenty-eighth, loth to quit the fires which they had kindled. The delay proved calamitous. The Russian armies in pursuit had come up before daylight; and, in order to afford time for the stragglers and baggage to cross, the soldiers who remained on the left side had to interpose themselves between them and the Russians. A terrible carnage ensued: one whole division of the French was obliged to surrender, and the rest were exposed to an incessant fire.
4. Meanwhile the crowd was crushing along both bridges in the wildest confusion, — men, women, children, horses, baggage, — all struggling to be first. A heavy snow was falling; the weather was bitterly cold; large pieces of ice were floating down the river, and dashing against the frail wood-work; and the Russian bullets aud cannon-balls were sweeping overhead. The scene became every moment more horrible. Here might be seen strong men, brutal in their selfishness, driving carriages through the crowd., crushing to death those who stood in their way; there poor weak wretches, sitting composedly on the bank, gazing at the water; and further on, persons who had been thrown off the bridge into the water, trying to climb up again, or grasping, in their agony, floating fragments of ice. One of the bridges at length broke down. The crowd still pushing on from behind, scores were thrown into the water, and carried down by the stream. The rest rushed pell-mell to the other bridge.
5. Nothing now was to be heard but groans, curses, and screams, from victims trampled to death under the feet of their companions. So it continued during the whole night of the twenty-eighth, the Russian artillery never slacking their murderous fire. When morning dawned, many thousands still remained waiting to cross. Before this time, however, the Russians had approached so near, that, to save those who had crossed it became necessary to burn the bridge. This was accordingly done at about half-past eight o'clock; and all who had not passed were abandoned to the Russians. The fatal passage of the Beresina cost the army an immense number of its men; about twenty thousand armed men, and thirty thousand stragglers, alone escaping to the other side.
6. The miseries of the fugitives, however, were not yet over The dreadful winter, the want of food, the goading attacks of the Cos'sacks, who hovered on the skirt of the army, continued to thin the ranks of the wretched caravan, and to strew its route" with corpses.60 On the fifth of December the army reached Smor'ghoni, on the banks of the Wilna. Here Napoleon left it in a private manner, taking with him a small body-guard, and travelling as fast as possible, by means of sledges, in the direction of Poland and France. At his departure, the retreating army was left in the command of Murat, who was to conduct it homeward. No sooner, however, was it known that Napoleon had left the army to its fate, than there arose universal disorgan ization and anarchy.
Then came the mad retreat — the whirlwind snows
7. ' On the sixth of December, the very day after Napoleon's departure," says Segur," "the sky exhibited a dreadful appearance. You might see icy particles floating in the air; the birds fell from it quite stiff and frozen. We flitted along in this empire of death like unhappy spirits. The dull and monotonous sound of our steps, the crackling of the snow, and the feeble groans of the dying, were the only interruptions to the vast and doleful silence. Such of our soldiers as had hitherto been the most persevering, here lost heart entirely. Whenever they stopped for a moment, from exhaustion, the winter, laying his heavy and icy hand upon them, was ready to seize upon his prey. Comrades would pass by their dying comrades without moving a step out of the way, for fear of prolonging their journey, or even turning their heads; for their beards and their hair were stiffened with ice, and every movement was a pain."
8. On the ninth of December the fugitives reached Wilna. From this place they pushed on in broken bands to Kowno, the last town on the Kussian frontier. The greater number of them arrived here on the twelfth of December, and crossed the NiemenD next day. Out of four hundred thousand men, in the prime of health and strength, who had crossed the Niemen on their advance into Russia, not more than twenty-five thousand now recrossed it on their return; and these with hollow eyes, and hunger-bitten faces, and covered with rags. Plunging into the forests of Russian Poland, these poor wretches made their way to their several homes as well as they could, pursued for miles by the remorseless Cossacks. Many perished by the sword and by famine; and, finally, only a mere handful reached France. Prince Eugene, after making every research to gather together the remains of his division, could muster only about eight hundred wounded, the miserable wreck of forty-eight thousand warriors.
9. Thus the grand army, which was to have subdued Russia, was annihilated, and its boastful chief a fugitive towards France. On the evening of the tenth of December, the sledges which bore Napoleon and a few attendants from the scene of danger reached Warsaw; and hence, wrapped in furs, after a brief stay, they pursued their way as secretly as possible through Germany and France to Paris. What a miserable contrast did this rapid and obscure journey present to that of the French emperor's advance, only a few months before! His sudden and unexpected appear, ance in Paris, on the nineteenth of December, caused general surprise; and it was only by concealing for a time the result of the campaign, and issuing false intelligence respecting the movements aiid state of the army, that he was able to prevent the discontent which was likely to arise.