« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
thus was seen the spectacle of men moving along with parts of their bodies deprived of life. The face, hands, and shoulders were especially stricken in this manner ; and it was now feared that troop after troop must perish, as no means of checking the effects of the cold were at hand. At first, some who had been staggering forward like men asleep were seen to lay themselves down in the midst of snow-drifts, by which covered as in a bed, they surrendered themselves to those fast slumbers from which men never wake. No persuasion could restrain those upon whom the fatal sleepiness fell from lying down. In vain they were told such places of rest would be their graves : each victim went with a kind of delight to his long sleep. Silent were these snow burials. No funeral volley echoed over the road-side heaps, shaped like the rustic graves in a village church-yard ; but instead of the wild flowers blossoming in their solemn solitude, the projecting musket-barrel or sabre-hilt indicated the eternal rest from war of the hands which had once proudly grasped the sol
Two days of this weather ruined the army, and broke up its organization, reducing the well-trained bands of Charles XII. to a scattered, shivering, and dying host. The advanced troops had nearly all perished by the second day, and some Danish prisoners found themselves alone, without a single guard to control or direct their movements : the almost noiseless tread of the marching regiments had now ceased : horses, sledges, and men lay along the line of march, each party covered by a fast-accumulating mound of snow.
In one place was found a circle of dead soldiers, and in the midst an extinguished mass of half-burnt wood. These had perished in the night, when the bivouac fire being put out by the tempest, life soon departed from the exhausted men. In another part, a group of sledges was seen under a projecting precipice, half-buried in snow : the horses dead and dying, and the occupants, who were officers of the Swedish army, lying in some cases dead and stiff against their carriages ; whilst others, with frozen arms and legs, sat fixed helplessly to their seats.
The general of the Swedes, pitying the dreadful state of the prisoners, and fearing the loss of his whole army, issued orders for the captives to be freed from the cords by which
they were fastened. None were able to undo the rope knots ; and had not some troops come up and cut the fastenings with their swords, the prisoners must soon have perished.
Desperate efforts were now made to escape from these horrid steeps and defiles to the open country, where some shelter would at least be found. The force therefore broke into two divisions, hoping thus more easily to break through the mountain passes. The living left behind them more than one hundred and fifty sledges, and whole battalions of their fellows, upon whose bodies the wolves began to descend in vast packs, tearing away the snow which concealed the dead soldiers.
The general dashed forward with the energy which one lingering hope of deliverance often imparts ; but no exertion could stop the ravages of death. Of his five thousand men nearly one half perished before the remainder were lodged in a small town ; where, however, the survivors continued to die so rapidly that nearly six hundred perished in three inns. The other column fared even worse, losing one half of their number in the mountain passes of the Dofrefield.
But how many returned to tell the tale of suffering to their companions and relatives round blazing fires during the long nights of winter ? Out of more than seven thousand soldiers, who began the march across these mountains, there returned to Sweden only two thousand, of whom great numbers suffered much from frozen faces and limbs. When it is remembered that this destruction was effected in the space of three or four days, we must admit such a military catastrophe to be almost without a parallel in the annals of warfare. Other retreats have been attended with far greater losses ; but in such cases, as in the march of the French army from Moscow, the devastation extended over a long period, and arose, in part, from perpetual conflicts with a pursuing enemy. The Swedes were pressed by no foe : their retreat was soon over. To the resistless powers of frost, therefore, must all the havoc be ascribed. When the proud soldiers of Charles XII. yielded at Pultowa, overwhelmed by Russian hosts, and disorganized by inefficient generals, each Swede fell as became the descendants of those troops who, under Gustavus Vasa, had delivered Sweden from tyranny, confirmed her power under Gustavus Adolphus, and made her for a time, under Charles, the terror of the North. Amid the wreck of a lost battle-field, there was something to enkindle the soldier's energies, and revive his hopes. But these unfortunate Swedes were deprived, amid their desolation, of that excitement which often enables men to face death fearlessly. With them all was silent, cheerless, and horrid desolation, amid the dark glaciers, and waves of drifting snow.
Such was the fate of one division of the army of Charles XII., whose sudden death, occasioning the ill-timed retreat, may be regarded as the indirect cause of that rapid ruin which fell upon his devoted troops.
THE ADVENTURES OF THE DUCHESS DE BERRI,
THE ADVENTURES OF THE DUCHESS DE BERRI
IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, IN 1832.
HE revolution of 1830 uttered words of strange
emphasis to France and Europe. The hearts of thousands were shaken from their political resting places, and multitudes summoned by the
deep, hoarse voice of insurrection to strike at ancient powers and symbols of authority. Some were looking back to the scenes of the Consulate and the Empire, and listening with suspended breath for the tramp of battalions and the roll of the war-drum, expecting, with barbarous glee, fresh wars and slaughter. But many were trembling, and saw with dread the tri-colour again floating over Paris, as visions of other Leipsics and Waterloos startled the most thoughtful sons of France.
There existed a third party--the adherents of Charles X., who were prepared to risk life and property in support of those principles for which the great monarchies of Europe had marched their legions through a hundred battle-fields. The Royalists looked upon the revolution as the completion of a great national crime, ard were eager to repair the foul disgrace by deeds of valour, worthy of the days when chivalry was honoured and loyalty prized. The south and west of France could furnish many in whose hearts love for the king was a virtue, not a calculation ; who would have borne the white flag through the storm of battle to a high place of triumph, or perished in the great attempt. Such men heard the news of the revolution, first with scepticism—it could not be that a mob had overturned a throne ; but next, with
hands nerved and ready for the punishment of traitors. These were brave hearts ; but a net was thrown over the lions of La Vendée, though they saw not its meshes. After the expulsion of Charles X. from France, the Carlists, as his followers were called, resolved to make a bold effort for the restoration of the ancient kingly line.
And who was preparing to lead those generous, though ill-informed men ? A woman - the Duchess de Berri, mother of the Prince Henri Duc de Bordeaux, who, after the abdication of Charles X. and of the Dauphin—which events happened within one hour—was regarded as the future sovereign of France. Joan of Arc, though a peasant-girl, had preserved France four hundred years ago for Charles VII. ; and surely a royal duchess, animated by a spirit kindred to that of the Orleans maid, and supported by the nobility of France, might preserve it for Charles X. Such thoughts may have passed through the royal lady's heart, whilst meditating on her dangerous prospect.
With an enthusiastic nation, the duchess might have accomplished important results. Her ardent disposition, contempt of danger, and powers of endurance, would have made her a worthy leader of spirits like her own. But the restoration of Charles X. required something more than passionate impulses.
Let us view the duchess for a moment, before we accompany her in the attempt to win a kingdom. We shall suppose ourselves introduced to her in her abode at Sestri, in Piedmont, where she holds a secret correspondence with those adherents of the exiled king whose hearts are passionately fixed on “ le drapeau blanc de la belle France.” We see before us no being of calm intellect, deep calculation, and passions reined and guided by the craft of policy--ready to wait the favourable hour-willing to strike when it comes ; or equally willing to sacrifice principle to change of times, should events prove that prosperity and consistency cannot be united. We see no female Richelieu, but a woman all impulse ; generous of heart, frank and unsuspecting, with little education, less knowledge of politics, and none of the managing qualities so requisite in those who have to deal with men of all principles and all ranks. She was one of those whom we could love in the retirement of private life