« ZurückWeiter »
southern ports of the Baltic were vigorously closed against the British; and the whole continent, except the Peninsula, seemed completely under the controul of the French emperor.
Bonaparte had from the first entrance of his troops into Spain, been continually pouring in reinforcements though almost the whole of the Spanish nobility, aided his views, yet such was the hatred of the Spaniards to his yoke, that they still remained unsubdued. When their armies were destroyed, and their strongest places taken either by treachery or force, and all hopes of success seemed to vanish, suddenly the popular indignation burst forth, and new'armies were immediately raised. The British cabinet also seconded these patriotic movements; and neither arms nor stores of any description were ever refused, while the British and Portuguese troops, under the intrepid and skilful Lord Wellington, continued to occupy the attention, and excite the fears, of the grand army of France. Bonaparte's troops grew weary of this procrastinated and inglorious warfare, which was increased by numerous bodies of desperate men called Guerillas, who, under the command of some bold leader, continually hovered around them, cut off their supplies and communications, and exhausted them with continual alarms. The successful opposition which Bonaparte thus experienced from an unwarlike, divided, and betrayed people, produced the most important effects. It shewed that his armies were not invincible, and that nothing but perseverance and an ordinary share of courage were requisite in order to defeat his most determined attempts. It proved that a nation was not subdued even when it had lost its capital and its king, and that every kingdom which groaned under French dominion had abjectly surrendered its independence. It also exhibited the magnanimity, disinterestedness, and resourses of the British empire in a new and striking point of view. The weakness, stupidity, and jealousy of the Spanish government; the occasional inhospitality and apathy of the people; and the inca
pacity and treachery of the chiefs, were all ipsufficient to induce Britain to relax her exertions to secure their liberty and independence, while the boasted invincible veterans of France Aed before her troops, and confessed their inferiority by numerous acts that reflected glory on their opponents.
These circumstances produced their due effect upon the court of Petersburgh. The alliance with France had always been unpopular in Russia ; and when Bonaparte insisted on the strict observance of his blockading system in that country, while he permitted his own subjects to trade with licences, every feeling of honour and interest was roused, and produed a general burst of indignation throughout the Russian empire. The Emperor Alexander participated in the popular feeling, which was greatly increased by the kindness and pattiality shewn to his subjects by Britain, though he had de serted her cause in so unjustifiable a manner. Bonaparte watched this growing spirit of opposition in Russia, and determined to strike a blow that should at once place her in a state of absolute subjection, and complete the entire ruin of the influence of England on the continent.
BONAPARTE PURPOSES TO ATTACK RUSSIA-JOINS HIS ARMY
- ADDRESSES HIS TROOPS-PASSES THE VISTULAPUR SUES THE RUSSIANS-DECLARÉS POLAND INDEPENDENT CROSSES THE NIEMEN-ENTERS WILNA-REACHES THR DWINA-ENGAGES THE RUSSIANS-TAKES POSSESSION OF SMOLENSKO-FIGHTS THE BATTLE OF MOSKWA-ENTERS MOSCOW-WITNESSES THE DESTRUCTION OF THAT CITY ARRESTS AND SHOOTS THREE HUNDRED SUBJECTS OF RUSSIA.
BONAPARTE had continued for upwards of two years to send stores of every description, consisting of cannon, muskets, powder, ammunition, and pantoons, into the North; and considerable sums of money were placed at the disposal of the department of engineers. Troops were marched from every part of the French empire, and all the allies and dedendent states of France were urged to hasten the equipment and departure of their armies. A large force proceeded from Austria to the expected theatre of war, and the vassal King of Prussia was compelled to exhaust his means in order to organize an army which might please bis relentless master. When all the murderous banditti was collected, their chief set out from St. Cloud on the oth of May, 1812, and advanced through Poland as to a party of pleasure. At Dresden he received the congratulations of his crowned vassals, and, on the 6th of June, crossed the Vistula and joined his army. .
The emperor of Russia had also quitted his capital, and advanced with bis army to Wilna. To save appearances, Bonaparte sent Count Lauriston to Alexander; but his object
being known, he could not obtain an interview. When this intelligence reached the French head-quarters, the emperor issued orders to march, for the purpose of passing the Niemen. "The conquered,' observed he, assume the tone of conquerors; fate drags them on, let their destinies be fulfilled.
The estimate of the French army acting against Russia, as given from the war-office at Paris, is as follows :-Poles, 100,000; Confederation, 120,000; French, 250,000; Italians, 50,000; Austrians, 90,000; Prussians, 30,000.—Total, 640,000.
The Russian force cannot be exactly ascertained; but that part which acted against this immense invading force did not probably exceed 300,000, including regular and irregular troops.
Both enperors, at the commencement of this dreadful contest, addressed their troops. Bonaparte, in the following order to his army :
SOLDIERS !—The second war of Poland has commenced. The first was brought to a close at Friedland and Tilsit. At Tilsit, Russia swore eternal alliance with France and war with England. She now violates her oath. She refuses to give any explanation of her strange conduct, until the eagles of France shall have repassed the Rhine, leaving, by such a - movement, our allies at her mercy. Russia is dragged along by a fatality! Her destinies must be accomplished. Should she then consider us degenerate? Are we no longer to be looked upon as the soldiers of Austerlitz ? She offers us the alternative of dishonour or war. The choice cannot admit of hesitation-Let us then 'march forward ! Let us pass the Niemen! Let us carry the war into her territory! The second war of Polaod will be as glorious to the French arms as the first; but the peace which we shall conclude will be its own guarantee, and will put an end to that proud and
haughty influence which Russia has, for fifty years, exercised in the affairs of Europe. * At our head-quarters, at Wilkowski,
June 22, 1812.'
The address of Alexander is also strong, energetic, and noble.
Russians !—The enemy has quitted the Dwina, and has proclaimed his intention of offering battle. He accuses you of timidity, because he mistakes, or affects to mistake, the policy of your system. Can he then have forgotten the chastisement which your valour inflicted at Donaburg and Mihr, wherever, in short, it has been deemed proper to oppose him? Desperate councils are alone compatible with the enterprize he has undertaken and the danger of his situation; but shall We, therefore, be imprudent and forget the advantages of our own? He would march to Moscow-let him. But can he, by the temporary possession of that city, conquer the empire of Russia, and subjugate a population of 30,000,000. Distant from his resources near 800 miles, he would, even if victorious, not escape the fate of the warrior Charles XII. When pressed on every side by hostile armies, with a peasantry sworn to his destruction-rendered furious by his excesses, and irreconcileable by difference of religion, of customs, of language, how would be retreat?
RUSSIANS !-Rely on your emperor, and the commanders whom he has appointed. He knows the ardent and indignant valour wbich burns in the bosom of bis soldiers at the boasts of the enemy. He knows that they are eager for battle ; that they grieve at its being deferred, and the thought of retiring. This cruel necessity will not long exist. Already are our allies preparing to menace the rear of the invader; while he, inveigled too far with impunity, shall soon have to combat with the seasons, with famine, and with innumerable armies of Russians.