Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXV.

Napoleon at Erfurt-at Paris-arrives at Vittoria

Disposition of the French and Spanish Armies-Successes of Soult-Passage of the SomosierraSurrender of Madrid-Sir John Moore's Campaignhis retreat

- Battle of Coruña Death of Moore - Napoleon leaves Spain. THREE Spanish armies, each unfortunately under an independent chief, were at length in motion : their nominal strength was 130,000 men; in reality they never exceeded 100,000. Had they been combined under an able general they might have assaulted the French army, now not exceeding 60,000, with every likelihood of success; for the position first taken up by King Joseph, after his retreat into the north, was very defective; but the Spaniards chose their basis of operations so absurdly, and were so dilatory afterwards, that Napoleon had time both to rectify Joseph's blunders and to reinforce his legions effectually, before they were able to achieve any considerable advantage.

Blake, who commanded on the west, extended his line from Burgos to Bilboa; Palafox, on the east, lay between Zaragossa and Sanguessa ; Castaños, general of the central army, had his headquarters at Soria. The three armies thus lay in a long and feeble crescent, of which the horns were pushed towards the French frontier; while the

enemy, resting on three strong fortresses, remained on the defensive until the Emperor should pour new forces through the passes of the Pyrenees. It was expected that the English army in Portugal would forthwith advance, and put themselves in communication either with Blake or with Castaños; and had this junction occurred soon after the battle of Vimiero, the result might have been decisive: but Sir Arthur Wellesley was recalled to London to bear witness on the trial of Sir Hew Dalrymple ; and Sir John Moore, who assumed the command, received neither such supplies as were necessary for any great movement, nor any clear and authentic intelligence from the authorities of Madrid, nor finally any distinct orders from his own government—until the favourable moment had gone by. In effect, Napoleon's gigantic reinforcements had begun to show themselves within the Spanish frontier a week before the English general was in a condition to commence his march.

The Emperor, enraged at the first positive disgraces which had ever befallen his

arms, and foreseeing that unless the Spanish insurrection were crushed ere the Patriots had time to form a regular government and to organize their armies, the succours of England, and the growing discontents of Germany, might invest the task with insurmountable difficulties, determined to cross the Pyrenees in person, at the head of a force capable of sweeping the whole Peninsula clear before him

at one fell swoop.” Hitherto no mention of the unfortunate occurrences in Spain had been made in any public act of his government, or suffered to transpire in

any

of the French journals. It was now necessary to break this haughty silence. The Emperor announced accordingly that the peasants of Spain had rebelled against their King; that treachery had caused the ruin of one corps of his army; and that another had been forced, by the English, to evacuate Portugal : demanding two new conscriptions, each of 80,000 men—which were of course granted without hesitation. Recruiting his camps on the German side, and in Italy, with these new levies, he now ordered his veteran troops, to the amount of 200,000, including a vast and brilliant cavalry, and a large body of the Imperial Guards, to be drafted from those frontiers, and marched through France towards Spain. As these warlike columns passed through Paris, Napoleon addressed to them one of those orations which never failed to swell the resolution and pride of his soldiery on the eve of some great enterprise. “Comrades," said he, “after triumphing on the banks of the Danube and the Vistula, with rapid steps you have passed through Germany. This day, without a moment of repose, I command you to traverse France. Soldiers, I have need of you. The hideous presence of the leopard contaminates the peninsula of Spain and Portugal. In terror he must fly before you. Let us bear our triumphant eagles to the Pillars of Hercules: there also we have injuries to avenge. Soldiers ! you have surpassed the renown of modern armies ; but have you yet equalled the glory of those Romans who, in one and the same campaign, were victorious on the Rhine and the Euphrates, in Illyria and on the Tagus ? A long peace, a lasting prosperity, shall be the reward of your labours. A real Frenchman could not, should not, rest, until the seas are free and open to all. Soldiers, what you have done, and what you are about to do, for the happiness of the French people and for my glory, shall be eternal in

my

heart!" Having thus dismissed his troops on their way, Buonaparte himself travelled rapidly to Erfurt, where he had invited the Emperor Alexander to confer with him. It was most needful that before he went to Spain himself, he should ascertain the safety of his empire on the other side ; and there was much in the state of Germany that might well give rise to serious apprehensions. Austria was strengthening her military establishment to a vast extent, and had, by a recent law, acquired the means of drawing on her population unlimitedly, after the method of Napoleon's own conscriptioncode. She professed pacific intentions towards France, and intimated that her preparations were designed for the protection of her

Turkish frontier ; but the Emperor Francis positively declined to acknowledge Joseph Buonaparte as King of Spain; and this refusal was quite sufficient for Napoleon. In Prussia, meantime, and indeed all over Germany, a spirit of deep and settled enmity was manifesting itself in the shape of patriotic clubs, (the chief being called the Tugend-bund, or Alliance of Virtue,) which included the young and the daring of every class, and threatened, at no distant period, to convulse the whole fabric of society with the one purpose of clearing the national soil of its foreign oppressors. Napoleon affected to deride, but secretly estimated at its true importance, the danger of such associations, if permitted to take firm root among a people so numerous, so enthusiastic, and so gallant. Lastly, there is every reason to believe that, cordial as the Czar's friendship had seemed to be at Tilsit, Buonaparte appreciated the unpopularity of his “ Continental System” in Russia, and the power of the aristocracy there, far too accurately, not to entertain some suspicion that Alexander himself might be compelled to take the field against him, should England succeed in persuading Austria and Germany to rise in arms during his own absence in Spain. For these reasons he had requested the Czar's presence at Erfurt; and this conference was apparently as satisfactory to either as that of Tilsit had been. They addressed a joint letter to the King of England, proposing once more a general peace; but as they both refused to acknowledge any authority in Spain save that of King Joseph, the answer was of course in the negative. Buonaparte, however, had obtained his object when he thus exhibited the Czar and himself as firmly allied. He perceived clearly that Austria was determined on another campaign; gave orders for concentrating and increasing his own armies accordingly, both in Germany and Italy; and—trusting to the decision and rapidity of his own movements, and the comparative slowness of his ancient enemy-dared to judge that he might still bring matters to an issue in Spain, before his presence should be absolutely necessary beyond the Rhine.

On the 14th of October the conferences of Erfurt terminated; on the 24th Napoleon was present at the opening of the Legislative Session in Paris ; two days after he left that capital, and reached

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »