Nations of Europe and the Great War - Charles Morris

The Earthquake of Napoleonism

Its Effect on National Conditions
Finally Led to the War of 1914


The first fifteen years of the nineteenth century in Europe yield us the history of a man rather than of a continent. France was the center of Europe; Napoleon, the Corsican, was the center of France. All the affairs of all the nations seemed to gather around this genius of war. He was respected, feared, hated; he had risen with the suddenness of a thundercloud on a clear horizon, and flashed the lightnings of victory in the dazzled eyes of the nations. All the events of the period were concentrated into one great event, and the name of that event was Napoleon. He seemed incarnate war, organized destruction; sword in hand, he dominated the nations, and victory sat on his banners with folded wings. He was, in a full sense, the man of destiny, and Europe was his prey.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


Never has there been a more wonderful career. The earlier great conquerors began life at the top; Napoleon began his at the bottom. Alexander was a king; Caesar was an aristocrat of the Roman republic; Napoleon rose from the people, and was not even a native of the land which became the scene of his exploits. Pure force of military genius lifted him from the lowest to the highest place among mankind, and for long and terrible years Europe shuddered at his name and trembled beneath the tread of his marching legions. As for France, he brought it glory, and left it ruin and dismay.

We have briefly epitomized Napoleon's early career, his doings in the Revolution, in Italy, and in Egypt, unto the time that France's worship of his military genius raised him to the rank of First Consul, and gave him in effect the power of a king. No one dared question his word, the army was at his beck and call, the nation lay prostrate at his feet—not in fear but in admiration. Such was the state of affairs in France in the closing year of the eighteenth century. The Revolution was at an end; the Republic existed only as a name; Napoleon was the autocrat of France and the terror of Europe. From this point we resume the story of his career.

The First Consul began his reign with two enemies in the field, England and Austria. Prussia was neutral, and he had won the friendship of Paul, the emperor of Russia, by a shrewd move. While the other nations refused to exchange the Russian prisoners they held, Napoleon sent home 6,000 of these captives, newly clad and armed, under their own leaders, and without demanding ransom. This was enough to win to his side the weak-minded Paul, whose delight in soldiers he well knew.

Napoleon now had but two enemies in arms to deal with. He wrote letters to the king of England and the emperor of Austria, offering peace. The answers were cold and insulting, asking France to take back her Bourbon kings and return to her old boundaries. Nothing remained but war. Napoleon prepared for it with his usual rapidity, secrecy, and keenness of judgment.

The Campaign in Italy

There were two French armies in the field in the spring of 1800, Moreau commanding in Germany, Massena in Italy. Switzerland, which was occupied by the French, divided the armies of the enemy, and Napoleon determined to take advantage of the separation of their forces, and strike an overwhelming blow. He sent word to Moreau and Massena to keep the enemy in check at any cost, and secretly gathered a third army, whose corps were dispersed here and there, while the Powers of Europe were aware only of the army of reserve at Dijon, made up of conscripts and invalids.

Meanwhile the armies in Italy and Germany were doing their best to obey orders. Massena was attacked by the Austrians before he could concentrate his troops, his army was cut in two, and he was forced to fall back upon Genoa, in which city he was 'closely besieged, with a fair prospect of being conquered by starvation if not soon relieved. Moreau was more fortunate. He defeated the Austrians in a series of battles and drove them back on Ulm, where he blockaded them in their camp. All was ready for the great movement which Napoleon had in view.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


Twenty centuries before Hannibal had led his army across the great mountain barrier of the Alps, and poured down like an avalanche upon the fertile plains of Italy. The Corsican determined to repeat this brilliant achievement and emulate Hannibal's career. Several passes across the mountains seemed favorable to his purpose, especially those of the St. Bernard, the Simplon and Mont Cenis. Of these the first was the most difficult; but it was much the shorter, and Napoleon determined to lead the main body of his army over this ice-covered mountain pass, despite its dangers and difficulties. The enterprise was one to deter any man less bold than Hannibal or Napoleon, but it was welcome to the hardihood and daring of these men, who rejoiced in the seemingly impossible and spurned faltering at hardships and perils.

The task of the Corsican was greater than that of the Carthaginian. He had cannon to transport, while Hannibal's men carried only swords and spears. But the genius of Napoleon was equal to the task. The cannon were taken from their carriages and placed in the hollowed-out trunks of trees, which could be dragged with ropes over the ice and snow. Mules were used to draw the gun-carriages and the wagon-loads of food and munitions of war. Stores of provisions had been placed at suitable points along the road.

The sudden appearance of the French in Italy was an utter surprise to the Austrians. They descended like a torrent into the valley, seized Ivry, and five days after reaching Italy met and repulsed an Austrian force. The divisions which had crossed by other passes one by one joined Napoleon. Melas, the Austrian commander, was warned of the danger that impended, but refused to credit the seemingly preposterous story. His men were scattered, some besieging Massena in Genoa, some attacking Suchet on the Var. His danger was imminent, for Napoleon, leaving Massena to starve in Genoa, had formed the design of annihilating the Austrian army at one tremendous blow.

The people of Lombardy, weary of the Austrian yoke, and hoping for liberty under the rule of France, received the new-comers with transport, and lent them what aid they could. On June 9th Marshal Lannes met and defeated the Austrians at Montebello, after a hot engagement. "I heard the bones crackle like a hailstorm on the roofs," he said. On the 14th, the two armies met on the plain of Marengo, and one of the most famous of Napoleon's battles began.

The Victory at Marengo

Napoleon was not ready for the coming battle, and was taken by surprise. He had been obliged to break up his army in order to guard all the passages open to the enemy. When he entered, on the 13th, the plain between the Scrivia and the Bormida, near the little village of Marengo, he was ignorant of the movements of the Austrians, and was not expecting the onset of Melas, who, on the following morning, crossed the Bormida by three bridges, and made a fierce assault upon the divisions of Generals Victor and Lannes. Victor was vigorously attacked and driven back, and Marengo was destroyed by the Austrian cannon. Lannes was surrounded by overwhelming numbers, and, fighting furiously, was forced to retreat. In the heat of the battle Bonaparte reached the field with his guard and his staff, and found himself in the thick of the terrific affray and his army virtually beaten.

The retreat continued. It was impossible to check it. The enemy pressed enthusiastically forward. The army was in imminent danger of being cut in two. But Napoleon, with obstinate persistence, kept up the fight, hoping for some change in the perilous situation. Melas, on the contrary—an old man, weary of his labors, and confident in the seeming victory—withdrew to his headquarters at Alessandria, whence he sent off despatches to the effect that the terrible Corsican had at length met defeat.

He did not know his man. Napoleon sent an aide-de-camp in all haste after Desaix, one of his most trusted generals, who had just returned from Egypt, and whose corps he had detached towards Novi. All depended upon his rapid return. Without Desaix the battle was lost. Fortunately the alert general did not wait for the messenger. His ears caught the sound of distant cannon and, scenting danger, he marched back with the utmost speed.

Napoleon met his welcome officer with eyes of joy and hope. "You see the situation," he said, rapidly explaining the state of affairs. "What is to be done?"

"It is a lost battle," Desaix replied. "But there are some hours of daylight yet. We have time to win another."

While he talked with the commander, his regiments had hastily formed, and now presented a threatening front to the Austrians. Their presence gave new spirit to the retreating troops.

"Soldiers and friends," cried Napoleon to them, "remember that it is my custom to sleep upon the field of battle."

Back upon their foes turned the retreating troops, with new animation, and checked the victorious Austrians. Desaix hurried to his men and placed himself at their head.

"Go and tell the First Consul that I am about to charge," he said to an aide. "I need to be supported by cavalry."

A few minutes afterwards as he was leading his troops irresistibly forward, a ball struck him in the breast, inflicting a mortal wound. "I have been too long making war in Africa; the bullets of Europe know me no more," he sadly said. "Conceal my death from the men; it might rob them of spirit."

The soldiers had seen him fall, but, instead of being dispirited, they were filled with rage, and rushed forward furiously to avenge their beloved leader. At the same time Kellermann arrived with his dragoons, impetuously hurled them upon the Austrian cavalry, broke through their columns, and fell upon the grenadiers who were wavering before the troops of Desaix. It was a death-stroke. The cavalry and infantry together swept them back in a disorderly retreat. One whole corps, hopeless of escape, threw down its arms and surrendered. The late victorious army was everywhere in retreat. The Austrians were crowded back upon the Bormida, here blocking the bridges, there flinging themselves into the stream, on all sides flying from the victorious French. The cannon stuck in the muddy stream and were left to the victors. 'When Melas, apprised of the sudden change in the aspect of affairs, hurried back in dismay to the field, the battle was irretrievably lost, and General Zach, his representative in command, was a prisoner in the hands of the French. The field was strewn with thousands of the dead. The slain Desaix and the living Kellermann had turned the Austrian victory into defeat and saved Napoleon.

A few days afterwards, on the 19th, Moreau in Germany won a brilliant victory at Hochstadt, near Blenheim, took 5,000 prisoners and twenty pieces of cannon, and forced from the Austrians an armed truce which left him master of South Germany. A still more momentous armistice was signed by Melas in Italy, by which the Austrians surrendered Piedmont, Lombardy, and all their territory as far as the Mincio, leaving France master of Italy. Melas protested against these severe terms, but Napoleon was immovable.

"I did not begin to make war yesterday," he said. "I know your situation. You are out of provisions, encumbered with the dead, wounded, and sick, and surrounded on all sides. I could exact everything. I ask only what the situation of affairs demands. I have no other terms to offer."

During the night of the 2d and 3d of July, Napoleon re-entered Paris, which he had left less than two months before. Brilliant ovations met him on his route, and all France would have prostrated itself at his feet had he permitted. He came crowned with the kind of glory which is especially dear to the French, that gained on the field of battle.

Moreau Wins Glory at Hohenlinden

Five months afterwards, Austria having refused to make peace without the concurrence of England, and the truce being at an end, another famous victory was added to the list of those which were being inscribed upon the annals of France. On the 3d of December the veterans under Moreau met an Austrian army under the Archduke John, on the plain of Hohenlinden, across which ran the small river Iser.

The Austrians marched through the forest of Hohenlinden, looking for no resistance, and unaware that Moreau's army awaited their exit. As they left the shelter of the trees and debouched upon the plain, they were attacked by the French in force. Two divisions had been despatched to take them in the rear, and Moreau held back his men to give them the necessary time. The snow was falling in great flakes, yet through it his keen eyes saw some signs of confusion in the hostile ranks.

"Richepanse has struck them in the rear," he said, "the time has come to charge."

Ney rushed forward at the head of his troops, driving the enemy in confusion before him. The center_ of the Austrian army was hemmed in between the two forces. Decaen had struck their left wing in the rear and forced it back upon the Inn. Their right was driven into the valley. The day was lost to the Austrians, whose killed and wounded numbered 8,000, while the French had taken 12,000 prisoners and eighty-seven pieces of cannon.

The victorious French advanced, sweeping back all opposition, until Vienna, the Austrian capital, lay before them, only a few leagues away. His staff officers urged Moreau to take possession of the city.

"That would be a fine thing to do, no doubt," he said; "but to my fancy to dictate terms of peace will be a finer thing still."

The Austrians were ready for peace at any price. On Christmas day, 1800, an armistice was signed which delivered to the French the valley of the Danube, the country of the Tyrol, a number of fortresses, and immense magazines of war materials. The war continued in Italy till the end of December, when a truce was signed there and the conflict was at an end.

Napoleon the Idol of France

The events which immediately followed may be briefly summarized. Napoleon's brilliant victories had won him a leading position in France and made him at once the terror of Europe and the admiration of the world. Among the excitable and glory-loving people of France he was fairly worshipped. His word was law, his requests commands, his rank that of a general and consul, his position that of an emperor and autocrat. He had but to speak and the whole nation was ready and eager to obey. The nineteenth century dawned, leaving France at peace with all the countries of Europe except Great Britain, a treaty of peace being concluded with Austria in February, 1801.

So far as Great Britain was concerned the war that still existed had to do solely with the troops which Napoleon had left in Egypt on his hasty return from that country. These hardened veterans proved too much for either the British land forces or the Turkish troops, and a treaty was finally made which stipulated that the French soldiers, 24,000 in number, should be taken back to France in English ships, with their arms and ammunition. On March 27, 1802, the treaty of Amiens was signed, establishing peace between England and France, and for the first time in years France was free from war. Its great general had conquered peace.

A Period of Peace

The days of leisure which now came to the First Consul—the rank at this time held by Napoleon—were by no means days of idleness. His mind throbbed with new ideas and new purposes. There were relics of the insensate fury of the Revolution that needed to be removed, and to these he first applied himself. One of the earliest things he did was to restore the Christian worship in the churches of France, abolishing the Republican festivals which had replaced Christianity with paganism.

But he did not propose to share his authority with the Pope; to establish a new kingship beside his own. He insisted that the Church should yield its old-time supremacy, and become a servant of, instead of an autocrat over, the French state. Another step was to have his term of office extended from ten years, as originally fixed, to life. He established himself in the Tuileries, where lie began to restore the old court customs and etiquette abolished by the Revolution, and made an effort to re-establish the customs and usages of the monarchy. The royal-like customs and elegance established made the First Consul's court resemble that of the deposed monarchy. In truth he had made himself king in everything but in name. However, the new liberties and privileges which the people had won by the Revolution were not interfered with. With these the peasant who had made himself monarch was in full sympathy. Feudalism had been definitely overthrown, and Napoleon's supremacy in the state was a benevolent one that recognized the popular freedom.

The Consul Made Emperor

He was not without enemies—bitter ones, many of them. There were among the old Republicans many shrewd enough to see that the republic they had founded was being undermined by this new popular favorite. Plots were formed, attempts made upon his life, and even Moreau, the victor at Hohenlinden, was accused of being in collusion with the conspirators and was banished from France. Napoleon fought them with a ruthlessness equal to their own. The Duke d'Enghien, a royalist French nobleman, believed by Napoleon to be deeply concerned in the royalist conspiracies, ventured too near the borders of France and was seized and taken to Paris by agents of the First Consul. Here, without form of law or opportunity for defense, he was at once executed. This was an act of lawless power which excited more indignation that anything in Napoleon's career, and one which historians of the present day do not hesitate to characterize as murder.

The culmination of Napoleon's ambition came in 1804, when, like Caesar, the Roman conqueror, he sought the crown as a reward for his victories, and was elected Emperor of the French by an almost unanimous vote. The Pope was obliged to come to Paris at the fiat of the new autocrat and to anoint him as emperor, thus giving the sanction of the Church to his new dignity.

The old insignia of royalty were at once restored, the emperor surrounded himself with a brilliant court, brought back the discarded titles of nobility, and sought to banish every trace of republican simplicity. But the new royalty was not one of the old type. Feudalism was definitely at an end. The world of Europe entered upon its nineteenth-century career with that effete and abominable system banished from France and with few foot-holds elsewhere. The new empire was one founded upon modern lines, one called into existence by the votes of a free people, not resting upon a nation of slaves.

The Code Napoleon

During his brief respite from war Napoleon's activity was great, his statesmanship notable. Great public works, monuments to his glory, were constructed, wide schemes of public improvement were entered upon, and important changes were made in the financial system that provided the great sums needed for these enterprises. The most important of these evidences of intellectual activity was the Code Napoleon, the first organized code of French law and still the basis of jurisprudence in France. This, first promulgated in 1801 as the civil code of France, had its title changed to Code Napoleon in 1804, and as such stands as one of the greatest monuments to the mental capacity of this extraordinary man.

The period of peace ended in 1803, when Great Britain, Napoleon's most persistent foe, again declared war against France. Hitherto the sea had protected his British foes from the force of the great Corsican's arms. But, angered by their persistent enmity, he now determined to play the role of William of Normandy and attack them on their own shores.

A great fleet was gathered, a powerful army got ready, the army numbering 120,000 men with 10,000 horses, the fleet 1,800 gunboats of various types. It was a threatening enterprise and might have been a successful one, under the leadership of Napoleon, but for the shrewd policy of William Pitt, then Prime Minister, who organized a coalition in Europe which gave the emperor a new use for his army.

Campaign of 1805

The Austrians, who had been so often defeated, were again quickly in the field, but they were not quick enough for the alert Napoleon, whose troops were at once set in motion from all quarters towards the Rhine. Early in October, 1805, the French held both banks of the Danube, and were handled so skilfully that the Austrian army under General Mack, an incapable commander, was surrounded in the fortress of Ulm and forced to surrender as prisoners of war; 23,000 soldiers and eighteen generals were held as captives by the victorious French. Another army, sent to Italy, was met and defeated by Marshal Massena. Meanwhile the King of Prussia, whose territory had been crossed by the French without his consent, had joined the coalition against Napoleon, had given free passage to the troops of Sweden and Russia, members of the coalition, and a powerful army was despatched to Austria. The French under Murat had reached and occupied Vienna, forcing the Austrian emperor to flee for safety, and thence advanced into Moravia. Here, on the 1st of December, 1805, the two armies, both concentrated in their fullest strength (92,000 of the allies to 70,000 French) came face to face on the field of Austerlitz, where on the following day was to be fought one of the memorable battles in the history of the world.

Battle of Austerlitz

The Emperor Alexander had joined Francis of Austria, and the two monarchs, with their staff officers, occupied the castle and village of Austerlitz. Their troops hastened to occupy the plateau of Pratzen, which Napoleon had designedly left free. His plans of battle were already fully made. He had, with the intuition of genius, foreseen the probable maneuvers of the enemy, and had left open for them the position which he wished them to occupy. He even announced their movement in a proclamation to his troops.

"The positions that we occupy are formidable," he said, "and while the enemy march to turn my right they will present to me their flank."

This movement to the right was indeed the one that had been decided upon by the allies, with the purpose of cutting off the road to Vienna by isolating numerous corps dispersed in Austria and Styria. It had been shrewdly divined by Napoleon in choosing his ground.

The fact that the 2d of December was the anniversary of the coronation of the emperor filled the French troops with ardor. They celebrated it by making great torches of the straw which formed their beds, and illuminating their camp. Early the next morning the allies began their projected movement. To the joy of Napoleon his prediction was fulfilled: they were advancing towards his right. He felt sure that the victory was in his hands.

He held his own men in readiness while the line of the enemy deployed. The sun was rising, its rays gleaming through a mist, which dispersed as it rose higher. It now poured its brilliant beams across the field, the afterward famous "sun of Austerlitz." The movement of the allies had the effect of partly withdrawing their troops from the plateau of Pratzen. At a signal from the emperor the strongly concentrated center of the French army moved forward in a dense mass, directing their march towards the plateau, which they made all haste to occupy. They had reached the foot of the hill before the rising mist revealed them to the enemy.

The two emperors watched the movement without divining its intent. "See how the French climb the height without staying to reply to our fire,". said Prince Czartoryski, who stood near them.

The emperors were soon to learn why their fire was disdained. Their marching columns, thrown out one after another on the slope, found themselves suddenly checked in their movement, and cut off from the two wings of the army. The allied force had been pierced in its center, which was flung back in disorder, in spite of the efforts of Kutusoff to send it aid. At the same time Davout faced the Russians on the right, and Murat and Lannes attacked the Russian and Austrian squadrons on the left, while Kellermann's light cavalry dispersed the squadrons of the Uhlans.

The Russian guard, checked in its movement, turned towards Pratzen, }n a desperate effort to retrieve the fortune of the day. It was incautiously pursued by a French battalion, which soon found itself isolated and in danger. Napoleon perceived its peril and hastily sent Rapp to its support, with the Mamelukes and the chasseurs of the guard. They rushed forward with energy and quickly drove back the enemy, Prince Repnin remaining a prisoner in their hands.

The day was lost to the allies. Everywhere disorder prevailed and their troops were in retreat. An isolated Russian division threw down its arms and surrendered. Two columns were forced back beyond the marshes. The soldiers rushed in their flight upon the ice of the lake, which the intense cold had made thick enough to bear their weight.

And now a terrible scene was witnessed. War is merciless; death is its aim; the slaughter of an enemy by any means is looked upon as admissible. By Napoleon's order the French cannon were turned upon the lake. Their plunging balls rent and splintered the ice under the feet of the crowd of fugitives. Soon it broke with a crash, and the unhappy soldiers, with shrill cries of despair, sunk to death in the chilling waters beneath, thousands of them perishing. It was a frightful expedient—one that would be deemed a crime in any other code than the merciless one of war.

A portion of the allied army made a perilous retreat along a narrow embankment which separated the two lakes of Melnitz and Falnitz, their exposed causeway swept by the fire of the French batteries. Of the whole army, the corps of Prince Bagration alone withdrew in order of battle.

All that dreadful day the roar of battle had resounded. At its close the victorious French occupied the field; the allied army was pouring back in disordered flight, the dismayed emperors in its midst; thousands of dead covered the fatal field, the groans of thousands of wounded men filled the air. More than 30,000 prisoners, including twenty generals, remained in Napoleon's hands, and with them a hundred and twenty pieces of cannon and forty flags, including the standards of the Imperial Guard of Russia.

The Gains of the Empire

The defeat was a crushing one. Napoleon had won the most famous of his battles. The Emperor Francis, in deep depression, asked for an interview and an armistice. Two days afterward the emperors—the conqueror and the conquered—met, and an armistice was granted. While the negotiations for peace continued Napoleon shrewdly disposed of the hostility of Prussia by offering the state of Hanover to that power and signing a treaty with the king. On December 26th a treaty of peace between France and Austria was signed at Presburg. The Emperor Francis yielded all his remaining possessions in Italy, and also the Tyrol, the Black Forest, and other districts in Germany, which Napoleon presented to his allies, Bavaria, Wurtemberg, and Baden, whose monarchs were still more closely united to Napoleon by marriages between their children and relatives of himself and his wife Josephine. Bavaria and Wurtemberg were made kingdoms, and Baden was raised in rank to a grand-duchy. The three months' war was at an end. Austria had paid dearly for her subserviency to England. Of the several late enemies of France, only two remained in arms, Russia and England. And in the latter Pitt, Napoleon's greatest enemy, died during the next month, leaving the power in the hands of Fox, an admirer of the Corsican. Napoleon was at the summit of his glory and success.

The victory of Austerlitz left Germany in Napoleon's hands, and the remodeling of the map of Europe was one of the greatest that has ever taken place at any one time. Kingdoms were formed and placed under Napoleon's brothers or favorite generals. His changes in the states of Germany were numerous and radical. Those of south and west Germany were organized into the Confederation of the Rhine, under his protection. Many of the small principalities were suppressed and their territories added to the larger states. As to the "Holy Roman Empire," a once powerful organization which had long since sunk into a mere shadow, it finally ceased to exist. The empire of France was extended by these and other changes until it spread over Italy, the Netherlands and the south and west of Germany. Changes so great as this could scarcely be made without exciting bitter opposition. Prussia had been seriously affected by Napoleon's map-making, and in the end its king, Frederick William, became so exasperated that he broke off all communication with France and began to prepare for war.

The Conquest of Prussia

It is by no means impossible that Napoleon had been working for this. It is certain that he was quick to take advantage of it. While the Prussian king was slowly collecting his troops and war material, the veterans of France were already on the march and approaching the borders of Prussia. The hasty levies of Frederick William were no match for the war-hardened French, the Russians failed to come to their aid, and on the 4th of October, 1806, the two armies met at Jena.

The Prussians proved incapable of withstanding the impetuous attack of the French and were soon broken and in panic and flight. Nothing could stop them. Reinforcements coming up, 20,000 in number, were thrown across their path, but in vain, being swept away by the fugitives and pushed back by the triumphant pursuers.

At the same time another battle was in progress near Auerstadt between Marshal Davout and the forces of the Duke of Brunswick. This, too, ended in victory for the French. The king had been with the duke and was borne back by the flying host, the two bodies of fugitives finally coalescing. In that one fatal day Frederick William had lost his army and placed his kingdom in jeopardy. "They can do nothing but gather up the debris," said Napoleon.

It took but a brief period to complete the utter dispersal of the Prussian forces, and on October 27th Napoleon entered in triumph the city of Berlin, the Prussian capital. The whole country was at his mercy, and its chief cities were heavily taxed to meet the expenses of the war, while their treasures of art and science were carried off to enrich the museums and galleries of France. All English merchandise found in ports and warehouses was seized, and a heavy war contribution put upon the state. As Napoleon could not reach the British islands, he now established a continental embargo upon British trade. This war upon commerce, in which Great Britain took part in reprisal, caused great distress, not only in Europe but in America as well, one of its final effects being the American war of 1812.

Invasion of Poland

Napoleon, not content while an enemy remained in arms, with inflexible resolution resolved to make an end of all his adversaries and meet in battle the great empire of the north, which had remained in arms against him since the battle of Austerlitz. The Russian armies then occupied Poland, whose people, burning under the oppression and injustice to which they had been subjected, gladly welcomed Napoleon's specious offers to bring them back their lost liberties, and rose in his aid when he marched his armies into their country.

Here the French, on marching against their foe, found themselves exposed to unlooked-for privations. They had dreamed of abundant stores of food, but discovered that the country they had invaded was, in this wintry season, a desert, a series of frozen solitudes incapable of feeding an army, and holding no reward for them other than that of battle with and victory over the hardy Russians.

Napoleon advanced to Warsaw, the Polish capital. The Russians were entrenched behind the Narew and the Ukra. The French continued to advance. The Russians were beaten and forced back in every battle, several furious encounters took place, and Alexander's army fell back upon the Pregel, intact and powerful still, despite the French successes. The wintry chill and the character of the country seriously interfered with Napoleon's plans, the troops being forced to make their way through thick and rain-soaked forests, and march over desolate and marshy plains. The winter of the north fought against them like a strong army and many of them fell dead without a battle. Warlike movements became almost impossible to the troops of the south, though the hardy northeners, accustomed to the climate, continued their military operations.

Victory at Eylau

By the end of January the Russian army was evidently approaching in force, and immediate action became necessary. The cold increased. The mud was converted into ice. On January 30, 1807, Napoleon left Warsaw and marched in search of the enemy. General Benningsen retreated, avoiding battle, and on the 7th of February entered the small town of Eylau, from which his troops were pushed by the approaching French. He encamped outside the town, the French in and about it, it was evident that a great battle was at hand.

The weather was cold. Snow lay thick upon the ground and still fell in great flakes. A sheet of ice covering some small lakes formed part of the country upon which the armies were encamped, but was thick enough to bear their weight. It was a chill, inhospitable country to which the demon of war had come.

Before daybreak on the 8th Napoleon was in the streets of Eylau, forming his line of battle for the coming engagement. Soon the artillery of both armies opened, and a rain of cannon balls began to decimate the opposing ranks. The Russian fire was concentrated on the town, which was soon in flames. That of the French was directed against a hill which the emperor deemed it important to occupy. The two armies, nearly equal in numbers,—the French having 75,000 to the Russian 70,000—were but a short distance apart, and the slaughter from the fierce cannonade was terrible.

A series of movements on both sides began, Davout marching upon the Russian flank and Augereau upon the center, while the Russians maneuvered as if with a purpose to outflank the French on the left. At this interval an unlooked-for obstacle interfered with the French movements, a snowfall beginning, which grew so dense that the armies lost sight of each other, and vision was restricted to a few feet. In this semi-darkness the French columns lost their way, and wandered about uncertainly. For half an hour the snow continued to fall. When it ceased the French army was in a critical position. Its cohesion was lost; its columns were straggling about and incapable of supporting one another; many of its superior officers were wounded. The Russians, on the contrary, were on the point of executing a vigorous turning movement, with 20,000 infantry, supported by cavalry and artillery.

"Are you going to let me be devoured by these people?" cried Napoleon to Murat, his eagle eye discerning the danger.

He ordered a grand charge of all the cavalry of the army, consisting of eighty squadrons. With Murat at their head, they rushed like an avalanche on the Russian lines, breaking through the infantry and dispersing the cavalry who came to its support. The Russian infantry suffered severely from this charge, its two massive lines being rent asunder, while the third fell back upon a wood in the rear. Finally Davout, whose movement had been hindered by the weather, reached the Russian rear, and in an impetuous charge drove them from the hilly ground which Napoleon wished to occupy.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


The battle seemed lost to the Russians. They began a retreat, leaving the ground strewn thickly with their dead and wounded. But at this critical moment a Prussian force, some 8,000 strong, which was being pursued by Marshal Ney, arrived on the field and checked the French advance and the Russian retreat. Benningsen regained sufficient confidence to prepare for final attack, when he was advised of the approach of Ney, who was two or three hours behind the Prussians. At this discouraging news a final retreat was ordered. The French were left masters of the field, though little attempt was made to pursue the menacing columns of the enemy, who withdrew in military array. It was a victory that came near being a defeat, and which, indeed, both sides claimed. Never before had Napoleon been so stubbornly withstood. His success had been bought at a frightful cost, and Konigsberg, the old Prussian capital, the goal of his march, was still covered by the compact columns of the allies. The men were in no condition to pursue. Food was wanting, and they were without shelter from the wintry chill. Ney surveyed the terrible scene with eyes of gloom. "What a massacre," he exclaimed; "and without result!"

So severe was the exhaustion on both sides from this great battle that it was four months before hostilities were resumed. Meanwhile Danzig, which had been strongly besieged, surrendered, and more than 30,000 men were released to reinforce the French army. Negotiations for peace went slowly on, without result, and it was June before hostilities again became imminent.

Eylau, which was now Napoleon's headquarters, presented a very different aspect at this season from that of four months before. Then all was wintry desolation; now the country presented a beautiful scene of green woodland, shining lakes, and attractive villages. The light corps of the army were in motion in various directions, their object being to get between the Russians and their magazines and cut off retreat to Konigsberg. On June 13th Napoleon, with the main body of his army, marched towards Friedland, a town on the River Alle, in the vicinity of Konigsberg, towards which the Russians were moving. Here, crossing the Alle, Benningsen drove from the town a regiment of French hussars which had occupied it, and fell with all his force on the corps of Marshal Lannes, which alone had reached the field.

Lannes held his ground with his usual heroic fortitude, while sending successive messengers for aid to the emperor. Noon had passed when Napoleon and his staff reached the field at full gallop, far in advance of the troops. He surveyed the field with eyes of hope. "It is the 14th of June, the anniversary of Marengo," he said; "it is a lucky day for us."

"Give me only a reinforcement," cried Oudinot, "and we will cast all the Russians into the water."

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


This seemed possible. Benningsen's troops were perilously concentrated within a bend of the river. Some of the French generals advised deferring the battle till the next day, as the hour was late, but Napoleon was too shrewd to let an advantage escape him.

"No," he said, "one does not surprise the enemy twice in such a blunder." He swept with his field-glass the masses of the enemy before him, then seized the arm of Marshal Ney. "You see the Russians and the town of Friedland," he said. "March straight forward; seize the town; take the bridges, whatever it may cost. Do not trouble yourself with what is taking place around you. Leave that to me and the army."

The troops were coming in rapidly, and marching to the places assigned them. The hours moved on. It was half-past five in the afternoon when the cannon sounded the signal of the coming fray. Meanwhile Ney's march upon Friedland had begun. A terrible fire from the Russians swept his ranks as he advanced. Aided by cavalry and artillery, he reached a stream defended by the Russian Imperial Guard. Before those picked troops the French recoiled in temporary disorder; but the division of General Dupont, marching briskly up, broke the Russian guard, and the pursuing French rushed into the town. In a short time it was in flames and the fugitive Russians were cut off from the bridges, which were seized and set on fire.

The Russians made a vigorous effort to recover their lost, ground, General Gortschakoff endeavoring to drive the French from the town, and other corps making repeated attacks on the French center. All their efforts were in vain. The French columns continued to advance. By ten o'clock the battle was at an end. Many of the Russians had been drowned in the stream, and the field was covered with their dead, whose numbers were estimated by the boastful French bulletins at 15,000 or 18,000 men, while they made the improbable claim of having lost no more than 500 dead. Konigsberg, the prize of victory, was quickly occupied by Marshal Soult, and yielded the French a vast quantity of food, and a large store of military supplies which had been sent from England for Russian use. The King of Prussia had lost the whole if his possessions with the exception of the single town of Memel.

Victorious as Napoleon had been, he had found the Russians no contemptible foes. At Eylau he had come nearer defeat than ever before in his career. He, was quite ready, therefore, to listen to overtures of peace, and early in July a notable interview took place between him and the Czar of Russia at Tilsit, on the Niemen, the two emperors meeting on a raft in the center of the stream. What passed between them is not known. Some think that they arranged for a division of Europe between their respective empires, Alexander taking all the east and Napoleon all the west. However that was, the treaty of peace, signed July 8th, was a disastrous one for the defeated Prussian king, who was punished for his temerity in seeking to fight Napoleon alone by the loss of more than half his kingdom, while in addition a heavy war indemnity was laid upon his depleted realms.

He was forced to yield all the countries between the Rhine and the Elbe, to consent to the establishment of a Dukedom of Warsaw, under the supremacy of the king of Saxony, and to the loss of Danzig and the surrounding territory, which were converted into a free state. A new kingdom, named Westphalia, was founded by Napoleon, made up of the territory taken from Prussia and the states of Hesse, Brunswick and South Hanover. His younger brother, Jerome Bonaparte, was made its king. It was a further step in his policy of founding a western empire.

Louisa, the beautiful and charming queen of Frederick William, sought Tilsit, hoping by the seduction of her beauty and grace of address to induce Napoleon to mitigate his harsh terms. But in vain she brought to bear upon him all the resources of her intellect and her attractive charm of manner. He continued cold and obdurate, and she left Tilsit deeply mortified and humiliated.

Campaign of 1809

We shall summarize more briefly what followed. The events, however, were of much interest, and take a prominent part in the annals of the great Napoleonic campaigns. Indignation of the Austrians at the arbitrary acts of the conqueror became in time so intense that, in April, 1809, they again declared war against France, despite the many defeats they had experienced. This war led to an interesting struggle in the Tyrol, the Austrian section of the Alps, in which Andreas Hofer, a valiant leader of the mountaineers, for a time gained freedom from French dominion. But their independence was of short duration, and their courageous leader was taken and remorselessly put to death for daring to seek freedom for his country.

The French campaign in Austria was, as usual, one of great speed—a remarkable rapidity in those days preceding the railway. Yet the Archduke Charles, who led the Austrians, was equally rapid in his movements, and the widely-spread French army soon found itself in imminent risk of being cut in two by the Austrians. This peril Napoleon perceived in reaching the front, and he wrote urging Massena forward.

"Never was there need for more rapidity of movement than now. Activity, activity, speed!" was the burden of his letter.

A brief hesitation robbed the Archduke of the advantage he had gained. The rapidly concentrating French army fell upon his troops, defeated them in a series of engagements, relieved Davout before Ratisbon, captured that town, and forced the Archduke to retreat into Bohemia. This brief but active campaign gave Napoleon, according to his despatch, 50,000 prisoners, a hundred cannon, and a large quantity of other military material. In Italy the French were less successful, meeting with defeat at the hands of Archduke John, commander of the Austrian army in that country. General McDonald, the French commander, took up a defensive position, and on the first of May was gratified to see indications of withdrawal of the enemy.

"Victory in Germany!" he cried. "Now is our time for a forward march."

He was correct, the Archduke John had been recalled in haste to aid his brother Charles in the defense of Vienna, on which the French were advancing in force.

Great Battles around Vienna

The campaign now became a race for the capital of Austria. During its progress several conflicts took place, in each of which the French won. The city was defended by the Archduke Maximilian with an army of over 15,000 men, but he found it expedient to withdraw, and on the 13th the troops of Napoleon occupied the Austrian capital. Meanwhile Charles had concentrated his troops and was marching hastily towards the opposite side of the Danube, whither his brother John was advancing from Italy.

It was important for Napoleon to strike a blow before this junction could be made. He resolved to cross the Danube in the suburbs of the capital itself, and attack the Austrians before they were reinforced. In the vicinity of Vienna the channel of the river is broken by many islets. At the island of Lobau, the point chosen for the attempt, the river is broad and deep, but Lobau is separated from the opposite bank by only a narrow branch, while two smaller islets offered themselves as aids in the construction of bridges, there being four channels, over each of which a bridge was thrown.

The work was a difficult one. The Danube, swollen by the melting snows, imperiled the bridges, erected with difficulty and braced by insufficient cordage. But despite this peril the crossing began, and on May 20th Marshal Massena reached the other side and posted his troops in the two villages of Aspern and Essling, and along a deep ditch that connected them.

As yet only the vanguard of the Austrians had arrived. Other corps soon appeared, and by the afternoon of the 21st the entire army, from 70,000 to 80,000 strong, faced the French, still only half their number, and in a position of extreme peril, for the bridge over the main channel of the river had broken during the night, and the crossing was cut off in its midst.

Napoleon, however, was straining every nerve to repair the bridge, and Massena and Lannes, in command of the advance, fought like men fighting for their lives. The Archduke Charles, the ablest soldier Napoleon had yet encountered, hurled his troops in masses upon Aspern, which covered the bridge to Lobau. Several times it was taken and retaken, but the French held on with a death grip, all the strength of the Austrians seeming insufficient to break the hold of Lannes upon Essling. An advance in force, which nearly cut the communication between the two villages, was checked by an impetuous cavalry charge, and night fell, leaving the situation unchanged.

At dawn of the next day more than 70,000 French had crossed the stream; Marshal Davout's corps, with part of the artillery and most of the ammunition, being still on the right bank. At this critical moment the large bridge, against which the Austrians had sent fireships, boats laden with stone and other floating missiles, broke for the third time, and the engineers of the French army were again forced to the most strenuous and hasty exertions for its repair.

The struggle of the day that had just begun was one of extraordinary valor and obstinacy. Men went down in multitudes; now the Austrians, now the French, were repulsed; the Austrians, impetuously assailed, slowly fell back; and _Lanes was preparing for a vigorous movement designed to pierce their center, when word was brought Napoleon that the great bridge had again yielded to the floating debris, carrying with it a regiment of cuirassiers, and cutting off the supply of ammunition. Lannes was at once ordered to fall back upon the villages, and simultaneously the Austrians made a powerful assault on the French center, which was checked with great difficulty. Five times the charge was renewed, and though the enemy was finally repelled, it became evident that Napoleon, for the first time in his career, had met with a decided check. Night fell at length, and reluctantly he gave the order to retreat. He had lost more than a battle, he had lost the brilliant soldier Lannes, who fell with a mortal wound. Back to the island of Lobau marched the French; Massena, in charge of the rearguard, bringing over the last regiments in safety. More than 40,000 men lay dead and wounded on that fatal field, which remained in Austrian hands. Napoleon, at last, was obliged to acknowledge a repulse, if not a defeat, and the nations of Europe, when the news reached them, held up their heads with renewed hope. It had been proved that the Corsican was not invincible.

Some of Napoleon's generals, deeply disheartened, advised an immediate retreat, but the emperor had no thought of such a movement. It would have brought a thousand disasters in its train. On the contrary, he held the island of Lobau with a strong force, and brought all his resources to bear on the construction of a bridge that would defy the current of the stream. At the same time reinforcements were hurried forward, until by the 1st of July he had around Vienna an army of 150,000 men. The Austrians had probably from 135,000 to 140,000. The archduke had, moreover, strongly fortified the positions of the recent battle, expecting the attack upon them to be resumed.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


Victory at Wagram

Napoleon had no such intention. He had selected the heights ranging from Neusiedl to Wagram, strongly occupied by the Austrians, but not fortified, as his point of attack, and on the night of July 4th bridges were thrown from the island of Lobau to the mainland, and the army which had been gathering for several days on the island began its advance. It moved as a whole against the heights of Wagram, occupying Aspern and Essling in its advance.

The great battle began on the succeeding day. It was hotly contested at all points, but attention may be confined to the movement against the plateau of Wagram, which had been entrusted to Marshal Davout. The height was gained after a desperate struggle; the key of the battlefield was held by the French; the Austrians, impetuously assailed at every point, and driven from every point of vantage, began a retreat. The Archduke Charles had anxiously looked for the coming of his brother John, with the army under his command. He waited in vain, the laggard prince failed to appear, and retreat became inevitable. The battle had already lasted ten hours, and the French held all the strong points of the field; but the Austrians withdrew slowly and in battle array, presenting a front that discouraged any effort to pursue. There was nothing resembling a rout.

The Archduke Charles retreated to Bohemia. His forces were dispersed during the march, but he had 70,000 men with him when Napoleon reached his front at Znaim, on the road to Prague, on the 11th of July. Further hostilities were checked by a request for a truce, preliminary to a peace. The battle, already begun, was stopped, and during the night an armistice was signed. The vigor of the Austrian resistance and the doubtful attitude of the other Powers made Napoleon willing enough to treat for terms.

The peace, which was finally signed at Vienna, October 14, 1809, took from Austria 50,000 square miles of territory and 3,000,000 inhabitants, together with a war contribution of $85,000,000, while her army was restricted to 150,000 men. The overthrow of the several outbreaks which had taken place in north Germany, the defeat of a British expedition against Antwerp, and the suppression of the revolt in the Tyrol, ended all organized opposition to Napoleon, who was once more master of the European situation.

The Divorce of Josephine

Raised by this signal success to the summit of his power, lord paramount of western Europe, only one thing remained to trouble the mind of the victorious emperor. His wife, Josephine, was childless; his throne threatened to be left without an heir. Much as he had seemed to love his wife, the companion of his early days, when he was an unknown and unconsidered subaltern, seeking humbly enough for military employment in Paris, yet ambition and the thirst for glory were always the ruling passions in his nature, and had now grown so dominant as to throw love and wifely devotion utterly into the shade. He resolved to set aside his wife and seek a new bride among the princesses of Europe, hoping in this way to leave an heir of his own blood as successor to his imperial throne.

Negotiations were entered into with the courts of Europe to obtain a daughter of one of the proud royal houses as the spouse of the plebeian emperor of France. No maiden of less exalted rank than a princess of the imperial families of Russia or Austria was high enough to meet the ambitious aims of this proud lord of battles, and negotiations were entered into with both, ending in the selection of Maria Louisa, daughter of the Emperor Francis of Austria, who did not venture to refuse a demand for his daughter's hand from the master of half his dominions.

Napoleon was not long in finding a plea for setting aside the wife of his days of poverty and obscurity. A defect in the marriage was alleged, and the transparent farce went on. The divorce of Josephine has awakened the sympathy of a century. It was, indeed, a piteous example of statecraft, and there can be no doubt that Napoleon suffered in his heart while yielding to the dictates of his unbridled ambition. The marriage with Maria Louisa, on the 2d of April, 1810, was conducted with all possible pomp and display, no less than five queens carrying the train of the bride in the august ceremony. The purpose of the marriage did not fail; the next year a son was born to Napoleon. But this imperial youth, who was dignified with the title of King of Rome, was destined to an inglorious life, as an unconsidered tenant of the gilded halls of his imperial grandfather of Austria.

With the defeat and death of Napoleon the Great was destined to end the empire he had so brilliantly built up. It was as well. No man of his name could hope to emulate his career or worthily grasp the scepter he was finally forced to let fall. An unworthy one, sarcastically termed "Napoleon the Little," sought to do so, but proved an example of the ordinary seeking to replace the extraordinary. Of all rulers of men and leaders of armies few if any have equaled Napoleon in genius. Alike as a soldier and as a statesman he proved himself great, and the years that have passed since his death have but increased the world's admiration for his abilities.