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1845.) Marshal Ney.
It is not an army we have through the destructive fire, up to the to fight, it is a whole nation, I see no very intrenchments, and carried them. end to this business.” Bonaparte fol- Then commenced that terrific struggle lowed his own inclinations and was for the heights of Demenowskoie. Daeventually defeated. Ney saw the dif- voust and Ney strove together with ference between conquering an army more than human valor to gain the emiand a people. Though engaged in no After four hours of steady, ungeneral battle while in Spain, he ex- paralleled effort against superior force, hibited his wonted skill and bravery in and in the midst of incessant discharges Asturia.
of artillery, Ney sent to Bonaparte for But it is in the Russian campaign help. The Young Guard and the rethat he displayed his
greatest qualities serve cavalry were ordered down, while as a commander. The history of the Napoleon wheeled four hundred cannon Grand Army in its invasion of Russia on the redoubt. Under cover of this and retreat from it, combines more of terrible fire, the mighty columns of glory and of gloom than anything of its cavalry and infantry moved to the askind in the annals of man. The con- sault. The Russian artillery from the trast between that army of near three batteries stretched whole battalions on hundred thousand men, crossing the the field at every discharge. But it Niemen in presence of Napoleon, as he was all in vain. The rent columns sat in his tower and saw those glorious closed again as before,“ each treading legions move in beautiful order and high where his comrade stood,” and pressed spirits before him; and the remnant of on like the in-rolling wave of the sea. that scattered army in rags, wan and Finding the French were gaining ghastly, following their iron-hearted ground, the Russian commander orderleader as he strode on foot over the ed his whole left wing to leave the insame river, always fills one with the trenchments and meet the French in the profoundest melancholy. At Smolensko, plain below. The shock was awful. Ney made a last effort to dissuade the Eighty thousand men were crowded Emperor from pressing into Russia so into a small space, and for more than an late in the season. But neither he nor hour raged against each other in all the the other generals that formed his coun- ferocity of war, while seven hundred cil could divert his purpose. The bat- pieces of cannon played incessantly tles of Valentini and Krasnoi soon fol- upon the dense masses of living flesh. lowed, and last of all came Borodino, in Ney moved amid this wild storm the which Ney "outdid himself,” and earn- same calm and determined man as ever. ed the title Napoleon gave him on the His uniform riddled with balls, and his spot of “Prince of Moskwa.” At the face begrimed with powder and smoke, commencement of that action Bona- he still, with his clear clarion voice, parte kept Ney close beside him, and cheered on his troops, and with his cool would not for a long time allow him to bravery held his exhausted men to the take any part in the conflict. There encounter with a tenacity that could they stood within hailing distance of not be overcome, and which saved Boeach other, and gazed on the battle that naparte that day from a ruinous defeat. raged on the right. At length Napo- Napoleon often gazed with astonishleon called Ney to him and gave his ment on the movements of his favorite last orders. The drums beat their wild marshal. The quiet determination with and hurried charge, and Ney with his which he set out to execute the most three divisions hurled themselves on the hopeless order—the progress he would foe. The enemy's artillery swept with- make against the most desperate odds, in a certain limit every inch of ground, and the victory he would wring from and it seemed impossible that a body of defeat itself, brought even from Napomen could stand there a single moment. leon bursts of admiration. Bonaparte watched the progress of the The blazing towers of Moscow, the column till it at length entered the turning point of Napoleon's invasion and storm of grape shot, when the head of it his fortune, have scarcely crumbled to sunk down and disappeared like snow ashes before the fated army turn their when it meets the river. Yet Ney still faces homeward. We should like to towered unhurt amid his falling column, be made acquainted with the conversaand without faltering a moment, led tions of Napoleon and Ney as they sat the remnant of his divisions straight together in the Kremlin and talked over
VOL. XVI.-10. LXXXII. 27
the disastrous issue they had met and falling columns, while troops of dogs,that the only way of escape from total anni- had followed the army from Moscow, fell hilation. The fiery and impetuous on the prostrate forms before life was harangues of the former, and the blunt wholly extinct. The storm howled by as characteristic replies of the latter, while the soldiers sunk at night in the snow the crackling of the flames and the fall- to rest, many to rise no more, while the ing of columns and walls without were morning sun,if it shone at all, looked cold borne to their ears, must have been in and dimly down through the flying clouds the highest degree dramatic. From the of a northern sky. There were long inheap of ruins and from the solitude tervals when not a drum or trumpet note which was more prophetic than the up- broke the muffled tread of the staggerroar of the storm, Ney was appointed to ing legions. On the rear of such an cover the retreat; and this act of Napo- army, and in sight of such horrors, did leon utters more distinctly his opinion of Ney combat. Nothing but a spirit unthat Marshal's generalship than lan- conquerable as fate itself could have guage can do. The whole history of sustained him, or kept alive the flagging Ney's conduct during that memorable courage of his troops. Stumbling retreat seems to belong rather to some every moment over the dead bodies of hero of romance than an actual man. their comrades who had marched but a The marvellous details appear incredible, few hours in advance of them, thousands and would not be believed if the evi- threw away their arms in despair, and dence was not incontestable. With wandered off into the wilderness to die a mere handful of men he placed him- with cold, or be slain by the Cossacks. self between the French and Russian Yet Ney kept a firm band around him armies, and by his incredible exertions, that all the power of Russia could not desperate valor, and exhaustless inge- conquer. Now ordering his march with nuity, saved a portion of that host which the skill of a general, and now with would otherwise have been totally anni- musket in hand fighting like a common hilated. That retreat alone would soldier, the moral force of his example make him immortal. With all the accomplished what authority alone fault found with his generalship, there never could have done. At length the was not a commander
among either the brave and heroic commander seemed to French or allied forces during the whole have reached the crisis of his fate, and war, that ever did or ever could accom- there was no escape from the doom that plish what Ney performed in that me- hung over him. The Russians had finalmorable flight. Had he fallen we be- ly placed themselves between the French lieve Bonaparte would have fallen also, army and that rear guard, now dwindled and the former really saved the army, to a few thousand. Ignorant of his danger which the latter never could have done. Ney was leading his columns through a Without provisions, almost without dense fog to the banks of the Lossmina, arms, he battled the well-tried and count- on which were strewed the dead bodies less legions of Russia back from his be- of his countrymen, when a battery of loved Emperor-and over the wintry forty cannon suddenly poured a destrucfields of snow and amid the driving tive storm of grape-shot into the very storm, with a heart untamed and a will heart of his ranks. The next moment unsubdued, he hovered like a protecting the heights before him and on either spirit around the divided and flying side appeared lined with dense columns ranks of his countrymen. The soldiers, of infantry and artillery. Ney had done exhausted and despairing, threw their all that man could do, and here his muskets from them into the snow-drifts, career seemed about to close. He was and lay down by thousands to die. ordered to capitulate. He replied, “ A Cold, benumbed, and famine-struck, this Marshal of France never surrenders," ghost of an army straggled on through and closing his columns marched the deep snow, with nothing but the straight upon the batteries. Vain vatall pines swaying and roaring mourn- lour. His noble and devoted followers fully in the blast for landmarks to the proved themselves worthy of their heroic glazing eye, while an enraged and leader, but after a loss of half their namwell-disciplined army was pressing in ber they were compelled to retire. the rear. Clouds of ravens, whose Finding the army gradually extending dusky forms glanced like spirits through itself on every side to hem him in, he the snow-filled air, croaked over the returned back towards Smolensko for an hour, then forming a body of 4000 men, with all the rapture one hero embraces turned north towards the Dnieper. another. Having reached the stream in safety, he But Ney's exhausting efforts were arranged his fragment of an army so as not yet over. Bonaparte dared not reto march over the ice at a moment's lieve him from his dangerous and imporwarning, and then waited three hours tant post. Though the rear guard had before crossing to allow the weak and melted away again and again under his wounded stragglers to come in. Press- command, he still renewed its ranks, ed by the most appalling dangers he and presented the same determined still yielded to the dictates of mercy. front to the enemy. At the awful pasThere on the banks of the frozen river, sage of the Beresina, he stood again and during this time of intense anxiety, between the army and destruction. At did this strange indomitable man lie length the scattered remnants of the down with his martial cloak around him, French Legions reached the Niemen, and sleep. Bonaparte, far in advance, the boundary of the Russian territory. struggling forward on foot with a birch Ney arrived destitute of troops—the stick in his hand to keep him from falling rear guard had again melted away. on the ice, surrounded by his few ex- Collecting in haste a few hundred men hausted yet faithful followers,was pressed whom he found in the town (Wilna), with anxiety for the fate of Ney-his he planted twenty-four cannon on the renow last remaining hope. But the doubts, and kept back the enemy all day, marshal, with only three thousand men, while the army was retiring. The next had still a wilderness between him and morning he continued his defence, but his Emperor, and that wilderness was the soldiers, seeing their comrades bendfilled with Cossacks. For sixty miles ing their footsteps towards France, and he struggled on with his weary columns away from the bullets of the Russians, amid six thousand of these wild war- began to follow after till he was left alriors. At one time they got in advance most alone. Still true to his duty he conof him and fell unexpectedly upon his tinued to cover the retreat of the army he advanced posts, which were immediately had so often saved. All had not yet passed driven in, and all was given up as lost. the Niemen, and by dint of persuasion, But Ney ordered the trumpets to sound and threats, and promises, he collected the charge, and with the cheering words, thirty men around him, and with musket “ Comrades, now is the moment; for- in hand defended with this handful the ward, they are ours," rallied their cour- gate of Wilna. At length, when the age to the assault, and the Cossacks fled. last soldier was over, he slowly retired Thinking their general saw what they through the streets with his face to the did not see, and that the enemy were enemy, and crossing the river, cut off, the soldiers pressed forward the last of the Grand Army who left the where otherwise they would have yield- Russian territory." ed and fled. At length with only fifteen Gumbinnen was the first place in hundred men out of the forty thousand Germany, after crossing the river, at with which he had started, he arrived which rest could be obtained. General near Orcha and near the French army. Dumas, who was sick, had just entered When Bonaparte heard of it, he ex- the house of a French physician in claimed, “I have three hundred mil. this town, when a man accosted him lions in my coffers in the Tuileries, I whom he took to be a perfect stranger. would willingly have given them to save His powerful form was wrapped in a Marshal Ney.
Well he might, and large military cloak-his beard was half his empire with it, for without him long and untrimmed—his countenance he had been a throneless Emperor. begrimed with powder, and his whisThe meeting of Bonaparte and his brave kers half burned off
, while his emaciated Marshal shows the profound impression face spoke of toils and privations of no the conduct of the latter had made on common magnitude.
But his eye him. As his eye fell on the worn yet still burned with that lustre no one still proud unconquerable veteran, he ex- ever forgot who once saw it in battle. claimed, " What a man, what a sol- “ What,” said the stranger, “General dier !" But words failed to express his Dumas, do you not know me ?” “No," admiration, and he clasped the stern replied Dumas, “Who are you ?” “I warrior to his bosom and embraced him am the rear guard of the grand Army
Marshal Ney. I have fired the last those arts he knew so well how to use. musket-shot on the bridge of Kowno; He had made Ney what he was, and I have thrown into the Niemen the last he appealed to the gratitude of the of our arms; and I have walked hither noble-hearted veteran. He had stood as you see me across the forests." He by his side in the smoke and thunder of had done all that man could do_fought battle, and he recalled these scenes to till his army was annihilated, then form- his imagination. They had been wared another--created means where they riors together in danger, and Bonaparte did not exist-sustained the sinking excited him with those recollections, so courage of his followers when all be- calculated to move a heart like his. He fore him was blank and hopeless“ kept his emissaries constantly about struggled at last with a few hundred him, representing to him the utter feeand then thirty, and then alone, as rear bleness and imbecility of the Bourbon guard of the army, and finally on foot throne — he called him again the and almost unattended crossed the for- “ Bravest of the Brave,” and entreated ests to the remnant of that army. him not to fight against his old com
We cannot follow him through the panion and King. At the same time he campaign of 1813. He fought beside promised peace to France, and all that the Emperor, though his fortunes were Ney could desire. A plain blunt evidently declining. At Bautzen, Lut- soldier—with a heart full of great afzen, Dresden, Denonewitz, Leipsic and ections for heroes like himself, what many other places, he exhibited his wonder is it that his constancy shook ! accustomed skill and bravery. After Added to all this, the emissaries of Bonathe abdication of Napoleon he lived in parte had at length affected the fidelity Paris in almost entire seclusion. Too of the army, and while Ney was warough for the polished society of the vering, his soldiers had already deFrench capital, and too stern and grave termined for Napoleon. He felt he could to be dissipated, he dwelt by himself. not resist the tide if he would, while His palace was elegantly furnished ; and he evidently had lost all desire to do so. his wife, fond of gaiety and luxury, en- His act of treason has many palliations ; tertained her friends there, while he still it was unworthy of him. If his would be dining by himself, musing old affections and his gratitude were over the stormy and adventurous life he too strong to allow him to fight against had led. Sick of the inactive monoto- his former Monarch, his honor should nous life of Paris, he retired to his have prevented him from fighting country-seat, where in the sports of the against his new one. He should have field, he could find some relief to his returned and resigned his command, restlessness. It was here he received and retired from the contest. He himhis unexpected order to join the Sixth self afterwards felt so. The excitement Military Division. On arriving at Paris and enthusiasm under which he had he learned to his astonishment that Bo- acted had passed away, and he saw the naparte had left Elba and was on his transaction in a clear and just light. way to the capital. Here we approach It weighed on his heart, and he grew the only dark spot in his history. The melancholy and spiritless. He had defence his own friends make for him lost his self-respect; and his honor, fails to exculpate him. Bonaparte's which he heretofore had kept bright as star had apparently set for ever at his his sword, was tarnished. Kindly feels exile, and Ney did perfectly right to ings had conquered him whom no sustain the government of France ; enemy could subdue, and now the eye but he had no right to betray no danger could daunt or hardship din, the trust his Monarch reposed in became dull and lustreless. That glohim, and go over with his army to the rious forehead, that had been the terror side of the invader. He, by this act, of so many hundred battles, had a spot became a traitor ; but his treason had upon it, and Ney felt feebler than in more excuses than the like crime ever the hour of extremest peril. Remorse had before. At first he regarded the gnawed at his heart, and the feeling of descent of Napoleon on the shores of personal dignity was gone for ever. France, as the most extravagant rash- He became morose and restless, and not ness, and designed, as he declared, to until ordered by Bonaparte to Lille, “if bring him a prisoner to Paris. But he he would see the first battle,” did he had hardly set out on his expedition evince any of his old fire. This sinbefore Bonaparte began to ply him with gle fact is the greatest apology we could offer for him. It shows that, whatever the British lines. He then placed them his act may be, his heart was not that under Ney, who ordered the charge. of a traitor. It was not the deliberate Bonaparte has been blamed for not treason of a villain, but the sudden im- heading this charge himself; but he pulse of a man too frequently govern- knew he could not carry that guard so ed by his feelings. He afterwards far, nor hold them so long before the doubtless hoped, in the excitement of artillery, as Ney. The moral power battle, to rid himself of his remorse, and Ney carried with him, from the reputaperhaps by his valor to wipe out the tion he had gained of being the “ bravdisgrace he had brought on his name. est of the brave," was worth a whole
His last charge at Waterloo showed battalion. Whenever a column saw that the firmness and bravery of the him at their head, they knew that it man was undiminished. It is true the was to be victory or annihilation. With Old Guard was not what it had been. the exception of Macdonald, we do not It required the experience and training know a general in the two armies who of the veterans that fell in the snow could hold his soldiers so long in the drifts of Russia. But still it was the very face of destruction as he. The Old Guard,” which had ever regarded whole continental struggle exhibited no itself the prop and pride of Bonaparte. sublimer spectacle than this last effort It was the same that had gained him so of Napoleon to save his sinking empire. many battles—the same that at Krasnoi, Europe had been put upon the plains of in the retreat from Russia, when re- Waterloo to be battled for. The greatest duced to a little band, closed round their military energy and skill the world posemperor and marched past the Russian sessed had been tasked to the utmost batteries; playing in the hottest of the during the day. Thrones were totterfire the popular air, “ Ou peut-on être ing on the ensanguined field, and the mieux qu'au sein de sa famille ?" It shadows of fugitive kings flitted through was the “ unconquerable guard."
the smoke of battle. Bonaparte's star From eleven in the morning till four in trembled in the zenith, now blazing out the afternoon, the battle had raged, while in its ancient splendor, now suddenly victory perched on neither standard. The paling before his anxious eye. At heavy French cavalry had charged the length, when the Prussians appeared on English squares in vain. Jerome Bona- the field, he resolved to put Europe on parte had left 1400 men around Hougou- one bold throw. He committed himmont. The centre of the English lines self and France to Ney, and saw his had not yielded an inch, yet, exhausted empire rest on a single charge. We and worn, they stood less firmly in their almost forget Napoleon's ambition and places. The Old Guard had remained guilt in our sympathy with him in this passive spectators of the scene during critical moment of his life. The inthe whole day, being reserved for the tense anxiety with which he watched last moment to complete the victory. the advance of that column, and the terAt this juncture, the head of the Prus. rible suspense he suffered when the sian columns appeared on the field. smoke of battle wrapped it from sight, Fifty thousand fresh troops added to and the utter despair of his great heart the English army would make the odds when the curtain lifted over a fugitive too great. Instead of retiring till Grou- army, and the despairing shriek rung chy could come up and restore the on every side, "la garde recule, balance, Bonaparte took the rash and “la garde recule,” make us for the desperate resolution of bringing his en
moment almost wish he had gained the tire reserve into the field, and with one day. Ney felt the immense responsiawful charge break the centre, and pre- bility resting upon him. He felt the vent the threatened junction of the two pressure of an empire on his brave armies. For this purpose he called up heart, and resolved not to prove unworthe Old Guard, and placing himself at thy of the great trust committed to his their head marched down the slope, and care. Nothing could be more imposing halting in a hollow, addressed them in than the movement of that grand cohis fiery, vehement manner. He told lumn to the assault. That guard had them everything rested on their valor. never yet recoiled before a human foe, They answered with the shout, “Vive and the allied forces beheld with awe l'Empereur," that was heard all along its firm and terrible advance to the final