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While he seemed to be fully occupied with the political discussions of the various parties, -with shows, and processions, and reviews of corps of children under twelve years old, his more serious preparations for the death-struggle which he expected to encounter, were as gigantic in their character as incessant in their progress. Every effort was used to excite the population to assume arms, and to move forward corps of national guards to relieve in garrison the troops of the line now called into more active service. And while Bonaparte was convoking in the Champ de Mai, as his mock assembly of the people was fantastically entitled, a number of persons to whom the revolution had given dangerous celebrity, together with his own military adherents,-a class of men of all others most unfit for being members of a deliberative assembly,-while, I say, the political farce was rehearsing and acting, the real tragedy was in active preparation. Cannon, muskets, arms of every description, were forged and issued from the manufactories and arsenals with incredible celerity. The old corps were recruited from the conscripts of 1814; retired veterans were again called forth to their banners; new levies were instituted, under the various names of freecorps, federés, and volunteers; the martial spirit of France was again roused to hope and energy; and the whole kingdom seemed transformed at once into an immense camp, of which Napoleon was the leader and soul. One large army defiled towards Belgium, where the neighbourhood of the English and Prussian troops excited alarm; other armies were assembled in Alsace, in Lorraine, in Franche Comté, at the foot of the Alps, and on the verge of the Pyrenees. It only remained to be discovered on which side the storm was to burst.
There is little doubt, that Bonaparte, reckoning upon the success of Murat, or hoping at least on his making a permanent diversion, had destined the north of Italy for the first scene of active and personal warfare. A threat in that quarter would have been sufficient to divert from the main struggle the whole force of Austria, already sensible, from sad experience, how vulnerable she was through her Italian frontier. Many of the Russian troops would probably have been detached to her assistance, and while a triple barrier of fortresses and garrisons of the first order, with a strong covering army, was opposed on the frontier of Flanders to the English and Prussian armies, Bonaparte himself might have taken the field on the theatre of his original triumphs, and have removed the war from the French territory, with the certainty, in case of success, that his army would be recruited among the Cisalpine velerans of Eugene Beauharnois. But Austria, on this pressing alarm, exerted herself with an activity unknown to her annals; and the troops which she rapidly hurried forward to meet Murat, exhibited, in the very first conflicts, the military superiority of the northern warriors." These barbarians," said the Neapolitans, after the skirmish at Rimini, " fight as if they had two lives; what chance have we against them, who pretend only to one?" And to save that single title to existence, Murat's army fled with such celerity, and so little resistance, that the campaign was ended almost as soon as begun, and with it terminated the reign of King Joachim over the delicious kingdom of Naples. No king, in a fairy tale, ever obtained a crown so easily, or lost it in a manner so simple, and at the same time so speedy. His discomfiture was attended with the most disadvantageous consequences to Bonaparte, who thus appeared hermetically sealed within the realm of France, by hostile armies advancing on all hands, and compelled to await the conflict upon his own ground.
But he neither lostcourage, norslackened his preparations, on account of his relative's disaster. The French grand army, already in the highest order, was still farther augmented in number and equipments. It became now obvious, that Flanders, or the adjoining French frontier, must be the scene of action. The general headquarters were fixed at Laon; a very strong position, where some preparations were made for forming an army of reserve, in case of a disaster. The first corps occupied Valenciennes, and the second Maubeuge, communicating by their right wing with the armies assembled in the Ardennes and on the Moselle, and resting their left upon the strong fortifications of Lisle. Here they waited the numerous reinforcements of every kind which Bonaparte poured towards their position.
The deficiency of artillery was chiefly apprehended. The allies had, in 181A, carried off most of the French field-trains. But, by incredible exertions, the loss was more than supplied ; for, besides the usual train attached to separate corps, each division of the army had a park of reserve, and the imperial guard, in particular, had a superb train of guns, consisting almost entirely of new pieces. It is remarkable, that in casting these fine engines of war, the old republican moulds bad, in general, been employed; for I observed, that most of the guns laken at Waterloo have engraved upon them the emphatic inscriptions, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, and so forth; not to mention others, which, in honour of philosophy, bore the names of Voltaire, Rousseau, and other writers of deistical eminence. The army in all possessed more than three hundred guns; a quantity of artillery which has been thought rather beyond the proportion of its numbers.
Cavalry was another species of force in which Bonaparte was supposed to be peculiarly weak. But the very reverse proved to be the case. The care of Louis XVIII. had remounted several of the regiments which had suffered in the campaigns of 1813 and 1814; and the exertions of Napoleon and his officers completed their equipment, as well as the levy of others; so that a finer body of cavalry never took the field. They were upwards of twenty thousand in number; of whom the lancers were distinguished by their address, activity, and ferocily; and the cuirassiers, of whom there are said to have been nine regiments, by the excellence of their appointments, and the superior power of their horses. This last corps was composed of soldiers selected for their bravery and experience, and gave the most decisive proofs of both in the dreadful battle of Waterloo. Their cuirasses consisted of a breastplate and back, joined together by clasps, like the ancient plate-armour. Those of the soldiers were of iron, those of the officers of brass, inlaid with steel. They are proof against a musketball, unless it comes in a perfectly straight direction. To these arms was added a helmet, with cheek-pieces, and their weapons of offence were a long broadsword and pistols. They carried no carabines. The horses of the cuirassiers, although, upon trial, they proved inferior to those of our heavy cavalry, were probably belter than those of any other corps in Europe. They were selected with great care, and many of the carriage and saddle-horses, which Bonaparte had pressed for the equipment of the army, were assigned to mount these terrible regiments. Yet, however formidable the aspect and onset of cuirassiers may be, emboldened as they are by a sense of comparative security, and affecting the imagination of those whom they assail by the flash and display of their panoply, it may be doubted whether the use of defensive arms for the body is, upon the whole, to be recommended. The weight of the cuirass becomes, in the course of a campaign, burdensome both to man and horse; and, after a few hours' active exertion in action, the horse of course is blown, and the rider, rendered less active as a swordsman by the uppliable armour in which he is sheathed, is outstripped, out-maneuvred, and cut down, by his more agile opponent.
Of the infantry of the French, it was impossible to speak too highly, in point of bravery and discipline in the field. The élite of the army consisted of the imperial guards, who were at least 20,000 strong. These chosen cohorts had submitted with the most sullen reluctance to the change of sovereigns in 1814; and no indulgence nor flattery, which the members of the Bourbon family could bestow upon them, had availed to eradicate their affection to their former master, which often displayed itself at times, and in a manner, particularly offensive to those who were their temporary and nominal commanders. The imperial guards were pledged, therefore, as deeply as men could be, to maintain the new revolution which their partiality had accomplished, and to make good the boast, which had caused France to rely " upon their stars, their fortune, and their strength." The other corps of infantry, all of whom participated in the same confidence in themselves and their general, might amount, including the artillery, to 110,000 men, which, with the guards and cavalry, formed a gross total
of 150,000 soldiers, completely armed and equipped, and supplied, even to profusion, with every kind of ammunition. So fascinated was this brilliant army with recollection of former victories, and confidence in their present strength, that they not only heard with composure the report of the collected armies which marched against them from every quarter of Europe, but complained of the delay which did not lead them into instant battle. They were under a general who knew well how to avail himself of those feelings of confidence and ardour.
It had been supposed, as well in France and in the army as in other parts of Europe, that Bonaparte meant to suffer the allies to commit the first hostile act, by entering the French territory. And although the reputation of being the actual aggressor was of little consequence, where both parties had so fully announced their hostile intentions, it was still supposed that a defensive war, in which he could avail himself of the natural and artificial strength of French Flanders, might have worn out, as in the early war of the revolution, the armies and spirits of the allies, and exposed them to all those privations apd calamities peculiar to an invading army, in a country which is resolutely defended.
But the temper of Bonaparte, ardent, furious, and impetuous, always aiming rather at attack than defence, combined with the circumstances in which he found himself, to dictate a more daring system of operations.
His power was not yet so fully established as to ensure him the national support during a protracted war of various chances, and be needed now, more than ever, the dazzling blaze of decisive victoryte renew the charm, or prestige, as he himself was wont to call it, once attached to his name and fortunes. Considerations peculiar to the nature of the approaching campaign, probably united with those which were personal to himself. The forces now approaching France greatly exceeded in numbers those which that exhausted kingdom could levy to oppose them, and it seemed almost impossible to protect her frontiers at every vulnerable point. If the emperor had attempted to make head against the British and Prussians in French Flanders, he must have left open to the armies of Russia and Austria the very road by which they had last year advanced to Paris. On the other hand, if, trusting to the strength of the garrison towns and fortresses on the Flanders frontiers, Napoleon had conducted his principal army against those of the Emperors of Russia and Austria, the numerous forces of the Duke of Wellington and Blucher might have enabled them to mask these strong places by a covering army, and either operate upon the flank of Napoleon's troops, or strike directly at the root of his power by a rapid march upon the capital. Such were the obvious disadvantages of a defensive system.
A sudden irruption into Belgium, as it was more suited to the daring genius of Napoleon, and beller calculated to encourage the ardour of his troops, afforded him also a more reasonable prospect of success. He might, by a rapid movement, direct his whole force against the army either of England or of Prussia, before its strength could be concentrated and united to that of its ally. He might thus defeat his foes in detail, as he had done upon similar occasions, with the important certainty, that one great and splendid victory would enable him to accomplish a levy en masse, and thus bring to the field almost every man in France capable of bearing arms; an advantage which would infinitely more than compensate any loss of lives which might be sustained in effecting it. Such an advantage, and the imposing atlitude which he would be thereby entitled lo assume towards the allies, might have affected the very elements upon which the coalition was founded, and afforded to Bonaparte time, means, and opportunity, of intimidaling the weak and seducing the stronger members of the confederacy. In Belgium, also, if successful, he might hope to recruit and extend his army by new levies, drawn from a country which had so lately been a part of his own kingdom, and which had not yet had time to attach itself to the new dynasty to which it had been assigned. For this purpose, he carried muskels with him to equip an insurrectionary army, and officers of their own nation to command them; and although the loyal Belgians were much shocked and scandalized at the hopes expressed by those preparations, it may be presumed they would not have been so confidently entertertained without some degree of foundation,
The proposed advance into Belgium had the additional advantage of relieving the people of France from the presence of an army, which, even upon
its native soil, was a scourge of no ordinary severity. The superiority which long war and a train of successes had given to the military profession in France, over every other class of society, had totally reversed sin that country the wholesome and pacific maxim, Cedant arma toga. In the public walks, in the coffeehouses and theatres of Paris, the conduct of the officers towards a pekin, (a cant word by which, in their arrogance, they distinguished any citizen of a peaceful profession), was, in the highest degree, insolent and overbearing. The late events had greatly contributed to inflame the selfimportance of the soldiery. Like the prætorian bands of Rome, the janizaries of Constantinople, or the strelitzes of Moscow, the army of France possessed all the real power of the state. They had altered the goveroment of their country, deposed one monarch, and re-elevated another to the throne which he had abdicated. This gave them a consciousness of power and importance, neither favourable to moderation of conduct nor to military discipline. Even while yet in France,