« ZurückWeiter »
"SOLDIERS! when the period for offering battle arrives, your emperor will be an eye-witness of your exploits, and reward your valour.
In order to weaken the Russians, and secure the assistance of the Poles, Bonaparte beld a diet at Warsaw, which declared all Poland independent, except that part held by the Emperor of Austria. At the same time a constitution was proclaimed; but it does not appear that the Polish people had forgotten the duplicity of their pretended deliverer on a former occasion, for their enthusiasm and gratitude have not been very conspicuous.
All things being ready for commencing the work of death, Bonaparte crossed the Nieman in the night of June 23d.An immense quantity of brandy, flour, and biscuit, for the supply of his prodigious army, was received by tbis river from Dantzic and Konigsburg, and nothing was wanting which might be necessary to secure success in this important expedition.
The French repassed the Vilia on the 25th of June, and by a quick movement separated two Russian corps from their head-quarters. The Russians, conformably to the defensive system they had determined to pursue, burnt their magazines in Samogitia and retired. The King of Naples, who commanded the French cavalry, pressed upon their rear guard; but though Bonaparte advanced through Lithuania by forced marches, he could make no impression on the Russians. His army entered Wiloa on the 28th of June, and reached the Dwina on the 5th of July; while the Emperor Alexander, with nine divisions of infantry and four of cavalry, retired to his entrenched camp at Dressa, defended by twelve pallisadoed redoubts, united by a covered way, and extending 6000 yards on the river. The Russians did not wait an attack, but having burnt their magazine, retired to Witepsk. Here the Emperor Alexander quitted the army and hastennd to Peters
burg, where he met the Crown Prince of Sweden and Lord Cathcart, the English ambassador, who joined in concerting measures for the defence of Russia.
The Emperor Napoleon having crossed the Dwina, and his advanced guard, consisting of about 23,000 men, presently engaged the rear of the Russian army, who obstinately defended every tenable position in its march. Prince Bagration occupied much of Bonaparte's attention, but all his efforts to cut off the retreat of the Russians proved abortive. On the 1st of August, a Russian corps crossed the Drissa, and attacked the Duke of Reggio, who, after a smart action, compelled them to recross the river with considerable loss.* Bonaparte continued his victorious march in the direction of Moscow, his army being divided into three grand divisions, with the impesial guards in the centre. Not only the Russian army, but also all the inhabitants of the surrounding country, retired on his approach, after burning, destroying, or removing every thing of value. The war was indeed conducted with unexa ampled fury. The Hetman Platoff offered his daughter in marriage with a large sum of money to any man who should bring Bonaparte to him dead or alive. It would have been honourable to the Russian court had it openly disclaimed the encouragement thus given to assassination, a crime so abhorrent to every honourable mind.
The Russians, contrary to the expectations of Bonaparte, evacuated Dunabourg. Thus,' says the French bulletin, Dunabourg, that the enemy has been fortifying for five years, where he has expended several millions, which cost him more than 20,000 men, during the labour, has been abandoned without firing a musket, and is in our power, like
• The Russians, it ought to be observed, also claimed the victory. Certain it is, that the Emperor Napoleon was much displeased with bis brother Jerome,, who commanded a division, the cavalry of which was cut up by the Cossacs ; so much so, that he dismissed him, on pretence that he was unable to stand the fatigues of the campaign,
the other works of the enemy, and like the entrenched camp which he had on the Drissa.'
On the 21st of August a severe engagement took place at Inkobo, in which Sebastiani's division was defeated with loss. Bonaparte having crossed the Boristhenes, for the purpose of attacking Smolensko, which is seated on the left bank of that river, on the 14th, a partial battle took place at Krasnoi, in which the French claim the victory; and on the 16th they arrived within sight of Smolensko. The Russians had placed 30,000 troops in the city, while the main body of their forces lined the right bank of the Boristhenes; their communication with the city being kept up by means of bridges. On the 17th, the attack upon Smolensko commenced, and the principal efforts of Bonaparte were directed to carry the suburbs. The contest seems to have been most obstinate; Smolensko was involved in a conflagration, which, to use the language of the French bulletin, resembled an eruption of Vesuvius. . Ultimately, at one in the morning of the 18th, the city was evacuated by the Russian troops, who recrossed the river, and joined their maici:body. In this desperate conflict, the French acknowledge a loss of 700 killed, and 3200 wounded ; General Grabouski being among the former, and Generals Grandeau and Dalton among the latter; while they assert, that on the side of their opponents, the loss amounted to five generals and 4700 men killed, 7 or 8000 wounded, and 2000 prisoners. A subsequent account stretched the loss of the Russians from 25 to 30,000 men. Their loss was no doubt considerable, but they retreated unbroken; while Bonaparte, unable to obtain any of those brilliant victories which distinguished his former wars, was retarded in his progress by the roads being broken up and the bridges destroyed. On the 30th of August he entered the town of Viasma, but not until the Russians had destroyed the magazines and a considerable part of the town was in flames.
In the afternoon of September the 10th, the Russians were perceived formed on the heights, with their right upon