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champs, Napoleon had retrograded to Meaux, for the sole purpose, however, of finding a good road to march upon the Austrians. Their advancing troops had reached Fontainebleau with the view to unite again with Blücher; Schwarzenberg had crossed the Seine at Nogent and Montereau. On the 16th, Napoleon left Meaux, met the Austrians at Guignes, and in a sharp engagement flung them back upon the Seine. It was only at this moment that he learned the intention of the allies to renew negotiations. An aide-de-camp from Schwarzenberg came with the offer of an armistice. If the allies had been depressed by the late events, Napoleon had been proportionately elated. So that, instead of at once accepting the armistice, he wrote a private letter to the Emperor of Austria, declaring himself ready to treat, but no longer on the basis of the old frontier of France. At the same time he withdrew from Caulaincourt the carte blanche he had given him.
This vigorous resolve he followed up on the 18th by attacking the advanced corps of Schwarzenberg that occupied the heights in front of the bridge of Montereau. They were insufficient in number, and were completely defeated, the French cavalry not only routing them, but traversing and winning the bridge in a rapid charge which prevented the enemy from even blowing up the arch in their possession. Notwithstanding this success, , which threw the enemy into full retreat, Napoleon was not satisfied: he hoped, at least, to have captured or destroyed one of the divisions. And he threw the blame upon his lieutenants, especially upon Victor, whom he deprived of his command. He did not pardon the old veteran the crime of taking a night's rest. Yet Victor had fought bravely at Montereau, and lost there his sonin-law General Chateau. The Emperor after a time relenting restored him to a command.
At Troyes, whence he drove the retreating Austrians on the 23rd, Napoleon was first made aware
of the active efforts of the Bourbon partisans to raise the standard of the old dynasty. Its princes were already on French soil, behind the English and Austrian camps, if not in them, whilst in Paris eminent persons met to consider what best could be done to save France from being occupied and dismembered, or unworthily disposed of, in case of the complete triumph of the allies.
Alexander had whispered to a French general (Reynier) his desire to place Bernadotte on the throne of France. The Bourbons were preferable to this proposal, and even to the regency of Maria Louisa, an Austrian princess. So thought Prince Talleyrand, and his friend the Duke d’Alberg, the latter going so far as to despatch an emissary, M. de Vitrolles, to the headquarters of the allies to acquaint them with the destitute state of Paris, the facility of carrying it by a coup de main, and the advantages of superseding the Bonapartes by the Bourbons. The same hopes and feelings were prevalent in the provinces, notably at Troyes, where, during the recent stay of the allied sovereigns, several nobles of the locality had presented petitions to them in favour of a restoration. Alexander had chidden the petitioners as premature. And so, indeed, it proved, for on the French reoccupying Troyes, the Chevalier Gouault, the chief of the petitioners, was arrested and shot.
Just before entering Troyes on the 23rd, as the Austrians withdrew, the Prince of Lichtenstein arrived from Schwarzenberg with renewed offers of an armistice, the terms of which were to be arranged at Lusigny. The Emperor Alexander and Blücher were both indignant at the retreat of the Austrians, and at their renewed offers to treat. Prince Schwarzenberg had promised Blücher to fight a battle with their united forces, and so repair the disaster of the Prussians. But since the defeat of the latter and the affair of Montereau, the Austrian commander declined an engagement. Had
Napoleon chosen the moment to meet the Austrian demand, he might have separated them altogether from the Russo-Prussians. Instead of such politic conduct, he still denied to Caulaincourt the power of accepting the frontier of 1790; and at Lusigny his aide-de-camp, Count Flahault, insisted on the retention of Antwerp.*
The opportunity which Napoleon neglected was seized with alacrity and address by Lord Castlereagh. He saw that the Austrians, left to themselves, would hesitate and defer advancing, Blücher being the general for a bold and forward movement. He therefore laboured to reinforce Blücher, so as to place him once more at the head of a formidable and effective army. His lordship took upon himself to order that the corps of Bülow and of Wizingerode should quit Bernadotte's army, hasten to Soissons to join Blücher, and raise his army to 100,000 men. The difficulty was to do this without offending Bernadotte, but Lord Castlereagh undertook it. His subsidies at the time fed Bernadotte's troops, and by giving him English, Dutch, and Hanoverian soldiers, to the amount of the two divisions abstracted, he succeeded in satisfying the Swede.
After having thus conferred the greatest obligation on Blücher and Alexander, the English minister proposed to gratify to the fullest the desire of Austria to treat, and offer the last chance of accommodation to Napoleon. He therefore proposed, in continuing the conferences at Chatillon, to put the question categorically to the French plenipotentiary of accepting or rejecting the frontier of 1790: in case of his accepting, submit to peace; in that of his rejection, manfully and in concert carry the war to the gates of Paris. To even this Alexander reluctantly consented. He was for pushing the war to extremity. And whilst Lord Castlereagh demurred, Alexander found himself backed by higher
Souvenirs de Caulaincourt.
CHAP. authority. Late in January the Prince Regent of Eng
land, in an interview with the Russian envoy, Prince Lieven, had strongly urged the expediency of having done with Napoleon altogether, and of the allies publicly declaring they would no longer treat with him. This was synonymous with a declaration in favour of the Bourbons, from which Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington both shrank, as possibly leading to a breach with Austria. Lord Castlereagh satisfied the Czar by adopting his views contingently, and couched his own in a solemn treaty, which was signed by all at Chaumont on the 1st of March. By it the four allies contracted with each other to remain united, in case of Napoleon refusing the frontier of 1790, and continue the war, till Europe was free and independent, Germany as a federation, Italy in independent states. For this end each Power was to keep on foot 100,000 men, England to pay the other three 5,000,000l. sterling annually, and that this treaty should be in force for twenty years. *
The allies were willing to extend the armistice of Lusigny to all the armies, but Napoleon had limited it to those in front of Troyes, leaving himself free to attack Blücher, who was in movement towards the Marne and hoping to join Winzingerode and Bülow. Instead of advancing the negotiations, Napoleon marched upon him, drove the Prussians before him to the Aisne, and would no doubt have defeated or captured them, had not the French governor of Soissons opened its gates, thus giving the allies a bridge over the river, with the facility of uniting their forces. The attempt was every way unfortunate. In the first place, it evinced Napoleon so determined to fight rather than treat, that it mainly induced Austria to sign the treaty at Chaumont. In the next place, it irritated Napoleon and inspired him to pursue a plan which eventually proved fatal to him.
* Hardenberg, Fain, Castlereagh, Correspondence Danilesky.
This was to carry the war momentarily into Lorraine, set free the garrisons of the Meuse and Rhine, and through them raise his army to 100,000 or 120,000 men.* He had hoped to do this by the assistance of the army at Lyons, but Augereau, who commanded it, was at first inactive, and at last hard pressed himself. The defection of Murat prevented all succour from Italy, whilst the successes of Wellington, who in the battle of Orthez had forced the French to abandon the line of the Adour, kept back the reinforcements that Soult might otherwise have sent.
Napoleon was encouraged in his idea of crossing the Aisne, and rallying the garrisons of the north-east, by the hopes that Schwarzenberg would not advance, † and that Caulaincourt could open more successful negotiations at Chatillon; Blücher, however, was at the other side of the Aisne, and Napoleon did not fail to attack him on the 7th at Craonne. The Prussians had been so strongly reinforced that all the efforts of the French only succeeded in making them withdraw from the high plain. In the night occurred one more opportunity of obtaining peace. A courier arrived from Caulaincourt at Chatillon, to demand categorically what Napoleon insisted on. The Emperor durst not or would not precisely say. The evasion led to the breaking up of the Conference. Napoleon thought but of assaulting Blücher in Laon; whilst meditating it, he learned that Marmont's corps had been assailed in the night and put to the rout, with the loss of his artillery. It was too late to hope to capture Laon. A slight revenge was taken by the surprise of General St. Priest, commanding a Russian corps which had just taken possession of Rheims. The town was recaptured, and
Thiers represents this scheme the 1st of March, plainly indicates as conceived somewhat later, but and declares it.-Mémoires de JoNapoleon, in his letter to Joseph of seph, t. 10.
† Fain. VOL. y.