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6: The Earthquake of Napoleonism

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

When, after a weary climb, we find ourselves on the summit of a lofty mountain, and look back from that commanding altitude over the ground we have traversed, what is it that we behold? The minor details of the scenery, many of which seemed large and important to us as we passed, are now lost to view, and we see only the great and imposing features of the landscape, the high elevations, the town-studded valleys, the deep and winding streams, the broad forests. It is the same when, from the summit of an age, we gaze backward over the plain of time. The myriad of petty happenings are lost to sight, and we see only the striking events, the critical epochs, the mighty crises through which the world has passed. These are the things that make true history, not the daily doings in the king's palace or the peasant's hut. What we should seek to observe and store up in our memories are the turning points in human events, the great thoughts which have ripened into noble deeds, the hands of might which have pushed the world forward in its career; not the trifling occurrences which signify nothing, the passing actions which have borne no fruit in human affairs. It is with such turning points, such critical periods in modern history, that we are here dealing; not to picture the passing bubbles on the stream of time, but to point out the great ships which have sailed up that stream laden with a noble freight. This is history in its deepest and best aspect, and we have set our camera to photograph only the men who have made and the events which constitute history in the phase here outlined.

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 thunder-cloud 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.

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.

The career of Napoleon Bonaparte began in a very modest way. Born in Corsica and trained in a military school in France, his native ability as a man of action was first made evident in 1794, when, under the orders of the National Convention, he quelled the mob of Paris with loaded cannon and put a final end to the Reign of Terror that had long prevailed.

Placed at the head of the French army in Italy, Napoleon quickly astonished the world by a series of the most brilliant victories, defeating the Austrians and the Sardinians wherever he met them, seizing Venice, the city of the lagoon, and forcing almost all Italy to submit to his arms. A republic was established here and a new one in Switzerland, while Belgium and the left bank of the Rhine were held by France.

His wars here at an end, Napoleon's ambition led him to Egypt, inspired by great designs which he failed to realize. In his absence anarchy arose in France. The five Directors, then at the head of the government, had lost all authority, and Napoleon, who had unexpectedly returned, did not hesitate to overthrow them and the Assembly which supported them. A new government, with three Consuls at its head, was formed, Napoleon, as First Consul, holding almost royal power. Thus France stood in 1800, at the end of the eighteenth century.


In the remainder of Europe there was nothing to compare with the momentous convulsion which had taken place in France. England had gone through its two revolutions more than a century before, and its people were the freest of any in Europe. Recently it had lost its colonies in America, but it still held in that continent the broad domain of Canada, and was building for itself a new empire in India, while founding colonies in twenty other lands. In commerce and manufactures it entered the nineteenth century as the greatest nation on the earth. The hammer and the loom resounded from end to end of the island, mighty centers of industry arose where cattle had grazed a century before, coal and iron were being torn in great quantities from the depths of the earth, and there seemed everywhere an endless bustle and whirr. The ships of England haunted all seas and visited the most remote ports, laden with the products of her workshops and bringing back raw material for her factories and looms. Wealth accumulated, London became the money market of the world, the riches and prosperity of the island kingdom were growing to be a parable among the nations of the earth.

On the continent of Europe, Prussia, destined in time to become great, had recently emerged from its medieval feebleness, mainly under the powerful hand of Frederick the Great, whose reign extended until 1786, and whose ambition, daring, and military genius made him a fitting predecessor of Napoleon the Great, who so soon succeeded him in the annals of war. Unscrupulous in his aims, this warrior king had torn Silesia from Austria, added to his kingdom a portion of unfortunate Poland, annexed the principality of East Friesland, and lifted Prussia into a leading position among the European states.

Germany, now - with the exception of Austria - a compact empire, was then a series of disconnected states, variously known as kingdoms, principalities, margravates, electorates, and by other titles, the whole forming the so-called Holy Empire, though it was "neither holy nor an empire." It had drifted down in this fashion from the Middle Ages, and the work of consolidation had but just begun, in the conquests of Frederick the Great. A host of petty potentates ruled the land, whose states, aside from Prussia and Austria, were too weak to have a voice in the councils of Europe. Joseph II, the titular emperor of Germany, made an earnest and vigorous effort to combine its elements into a powerful unit; but he signally failed, and died in 1790, a disappointed and embittered man.

Austria, then far the most powerful of the German states, was from 1740 to 1780 under the reign of a woman, Maria Theresa, who struggled in vain against her ambitious neighbor, Frederick the Great, his kingdom being extended ruthlessly at the expense of her imperial dominions. Austria remained a great country, however, including Bohemia and Hungary among its domains. It was lord of Lombardy and Venice in Italy, but was destined to play an unfortunate part in the coming Napoleonic wars.

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 it with his usual rapidity, secrecy, and keenness of judgment.


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. All was ready for the great movement which Napoleon had in view.

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 Mount 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. 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.


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. Suddenly attacked and taken by surprise, his army was defeated and driven back in retreat in the first stage of the battle. But Napoleon was not the man to accept defeat. Hurrying up Desaix, one of his most trusted generals, with his corps, he flung these fresh troops upon the enemy, following up the assault with the dragoons of Kellermann. The result was a disastrous rout of the Austrians, who were driven from the field, leaving thousands of dead, and other thousands of prisoners in the hands of the enemy.

A few days afterwards on the 19th, Moreau in Germany won a brilliant victory at Hockstadt, near Blemheim, 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.


What followed must be briefly detailed. Only a truce, not a peace, had followed the victories of Napoleon and Moreau, and five months later, Austria refusing to make peace without the concurrence of England, the war began again. Moreau winning another famous victory on the plains of Hohenlinden, the Austrians losing 8,000 in killed and wounded and 12,000 in prisoners.

Moreau advanced to Vienna, where the emperor was forced to sign an armistice, giving up to France the valley of the Danube, the country of the Tyrol, a number of fortresses and large magazines of war material. This truce was followed by a peace in February, 1801. It was one that left Napoleon the idol of France, the terror of Europe, and the admiration of the world. He had proved himself the mate of Caesar and Alexander as a conqueror.


The events that followed must be briefly epitomized. For nearly the only time in his career Napoleon had a period of peace. In this he showed himself an autocratic but able ruler, making himself king in everything but name, restoring the old court customs and etiquette, but not interfering with the liberties and privileges which the people had won by the Revolution. Feudalism had been definitely overthrown and Napoleon's supremacy in the state was one that recognized the popular freedom.

The culmination of Napoleon's ambition came in 1804, when he followed the example of Caesar, the Roman conqueror, seeking the crown as a reward for his victories. Like Caesar, he had his enemies, but, more fortunate than Caesar, he escaped their plots and was elected Emperor of the French by an almost unanimous vote of the people. The Pope was obliged to come to Paris at the fiat of the new autocrat and to anoint him as emperor, the sanction of the Church being thus given to his new dignity. His empire was one founded upon modern ideas, one called into existence by the votes of a free people, not resting upon the necks of a nation of serfs.


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 during which these events took place was one of brief endurance. It practically ended in 1803, when Great Britain, Napoleon's most persistent foe, again declared war. But actual war did not begin until two years later.

The Emperor's role in this period was one of threat. England had been invaded and conquered from France once before. It might be again. Like William of Normandy, Napoleon prepared a large fleet and strong army and threatened an invasion of the island kingdom. This might possibly have been successful but for the shrewd policy of William Pitt, the British Prime Minister, who organized a coalition of Napoleon's enemies in Europe which gave him a new use for his army.


The coalition embraced Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sweden and Norway, with Great Britain at their back. The bold Corsican had roused nearly all Europe against him. He dealt with it in his usual alert and successful manner.

Quick as were his enemies to come into the field, they were not quick enough for their vigilant foe. The army prepared for the invasion of England was at once set in motion towards the Rhine, and was handled with such skill as to surround at Ulm the Austrian army under General Mack and force its surrender.

This took place in October. On the 1st of December the two armies (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 world's most memorable battles.


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.

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.

They were soon to learn why their fire was disdained. The allied force, pierced in its center by the French, was flung back in disorder and on all sides broke into a disorderly retreat. The slaughter was frightful. One division, cut off from the army, threw down its arms and surrendered. Two columns rushed upon the ice of a frozen lake. Upon this the fire of the French cannon was turned, the ice splintered and gave way beneath their feet and thousands of the despairing troops perished in the freezing waters. Of the whole army only one corps left the field in order of battle. 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. Thus ended the most famous of Napoleon's battles.

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 is spread over Italy, the Netherlands and the south and west of Germany.

Changes so great as these 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.


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 Davoust 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.

The occupation of Berlin, the Prussian capital, quickly followed, and the war ended with new map-making which greatly reduced the influence of Prussia as a European Power.


Russia was still in arms, and occupied Poland. Thither the victorious French now advanced, making Warsaw, the Polish capital, the goal of their march. The Russians were beaten and forced back in every battle, and the Poles, hoping to regain their lost liberties, gladly rose in aid of the invader. But the French army found itself exposed to serious privations. The country was a frozen desert, incapable of supplying food for an army. The wintry chill and the desolate character of the country seriously interfered with Napoleon's plans, the troops being obliged 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 northerners, accustomed to the climate, continued their military operations.


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.

Nature, which had so far acted to check the advance of the French in Poland, now threatened their defeat and destruction. A snow-fall began, so thick and dense that the armies lost sight of each other, the French columns losing their way in the gloom. When the snow ceased, after a half-hour's fall, the French army was in a critical position. It was in a wandering and disorganized state, while the Russians were on the point of executing a vigorous turning movement.

Yet the genius of Napoleon turned the scale. He ordered a grand charge of all the cavalry of his army, driving the Russians back, occupying a hilly ground in their rear, and in the end handling them so vigorously that a final retreat began.

Thus ended the most indecisive of Napoleon's victories, one which had almost been a defeat and which left both armies so exhausted that months passed before either was in condition to resume the war. It was the month of June before the armies were again put in motion. Now the wintry desolation was replaced by a scene of green woodland, shining lakes and attractive villages, the conditions being far more favorable for warlike operations.

On June 13th the armies again met, this time at the town of Friedland, on the River Alle, in the vicinity of Konigsberg, toward which the Russians were marching. Here Benningsen, the Russian general, had incautiously concentrated his troops within a bend of the river, a tactical mistake of which Napoleon hastened to take advantage.

General Ney fought his way into the town and took the bridges, while the main force of the French marched upon the entrapped enemy, who met with complete defeat, many being killed on the field, many more drowned in the river. Konigsberg, the prize of victory, was quickly occupied by the French, Prussia the ally of Russia, thus losing all its area except the single town of Memel. The result was disastrous to the Prussian king, who was forced to yield more than half his kingdom.

Louisa, the beautiful queen of Frederick William of Prussia, had an interview with Napoleon and earnestly sought to induce him to mitigate his harsh terms. In vain she brought to bear upon him all her powers of persuasion and attractive charm of manner. He continued cold and obdurate and she left Tilsit deeply mortified and humiliated.

If Napoleon had come near defeat in the campaign of 1807, he came much nearer in that of 1809, in which his long career of victory was for a time diversified by an example of defeat, from the consequences of which only his indomitable energy saved him. And this was at the hands of the Austrians, who had so often met with defeat and humiliation at his hands.

In 1808 the defeat of his armies in Spain by the people organized into guerilla bands forced him to take command there in person. He defeated the insurgents wherever met, took the city of Saragossa and replaced his brother Joseph on the throne. Then the outbreak of war in Austria called him away and he was forced to leave Spain for later attention.


The declaration of war by Austria arose from indignation at the arbitrary acts of the conqueror, this growing so intense that in April 1809, a new declaration was made and new armies called into the field.

The French campaign was characterized by the usual rapidity. But on this occasion the Archduke Charles, who led the Austrians, proved equally rapid, and was in the field so quickly that the widely-spread French army was for a time in imminent danger of being cut in two by the alert enemy.

Only a brief hesitation on the part of the Archduke saved the French from this peril. They concentrated with the utmost haste, forced the Austrians back, and captured a large number of prisoners and cannon. In Italy, on the contrary, the Austrians, were victorious, but the rapid advance of Napoleon towards Vienna caused their recall and the campaign became a race for the capital of Austria. In this Napoleon succeeded, the garrison yielding the city to his troops.

Meanwhile the Archdukes Charles and John, the latter in command of the army from Italy, were marching hastily towards the opposite side of the Danube. Napoleon, seeking to strike a blow before a junction between the armies could be made, crossed the river by the aid of bridges thrown from the island of Lobau and occupied the villages of Aspern and Essling.

This was done on May 20th, but during that night the strong current of the river carried away the bridge, leaving the French in a perilous situation. On the afternoon of the 21st the entire Austrian army, 70,000 to 80,000 strong, attacked the French in the two villages, who held their posts only with the greatest difficulty.

By dawn of the 21st more than 70,000 French had crossed, but at this critical interval the bridge again gave way, broken by the fireships and the stone-laden boats sent by the Austrians down the swift current. The struggle went on all day, the bridge being again built and again broken, and at night the French, cut off from their supply of ammunition, were forced to retreat. Napoleon, for the first time in his career, had met with defeat. More than 40,000 dead and wounded lay on that fatal field, among them the brilliant Marshal Lannes, one of Napoleon's ablest aids.


Napoleon, however, had no thought of yielding his hold upon Vienna. He brought forward new troops with all haste, until by July 1st he had an army of 150,000 men. The Austrian army had also been augmented and now numbered 135,000 or 140,000 men. They had fortified the positions of the recent battle, expecting a new attack in that quarter.

But of this Napoleon had no intention. He had selected the heights from Neusiedl to Wagram, occupied by the Austrians, but not fortified by them, as a more favorable point, and during the night of July 4th he threw fresh bridges from Lobau to the main land and set in motion the strong force occupying the island. This moved against the heights of Wagram, occupying Aspern and Essling in its advance.

The battle of the next day was one of desperate fury. Finally the height was gained, giving the French the key of the battlefield. The Archduke Charles looked in vain for the army under his brother John, which failed to appear, and, assailed at every point, was obliged to order a retreat. But this was no rout. The retreat was conducted slowly and in battle array. Both the Russians and the Austrians were proving worthy antagonists of the great Corsican. Further hostilities were checked by a truce, preliminary to a treaty of peace, signed October 14, 1809.

Ambition, unrestrained by caution, uncontrolled by moderation, has its inevitable end. An empire built upon victory, trusting solely to military genius, prepared for itself the elements of its overthrow. This fact Napoleon was to learn. In the outset of his career he opposed a new art of war to the obsolete one of his enemies, and his path to empire was over the corpses of slaughtered armies and the ruins of fallen kingdoms. But year by year his foes learned his art, in war after war their resistance grew more stringent, each successive victory was won with more difficulty and at greater cost, and finally, at the crossing of the Danube, the energy and genius of Napoleon met their equal, and the standards of France, for the first time under Napoleon's leadership, went back in defeat. It was the tocsin of fate. His career of victory had culminated. From that day its decline began.


The second check to Napoleon's triumphant career came from one of the weaker nations of Europe, aided by the British under a commander of renown. Napoleon, as already stated, after overturning Spain had been called away by the Austrian war. This ended by the treaty of peace, he filled Spain once more with his veterans, increasing the strength of the army there to 300,000 men, under his ablest generals, Soult, Massena, Ney, Marmont, Macdonald and others. They marched through Spain from end to end, yet, though they held all the salient points, the people refused to submit, but from their mountain fastnesses kept up a petty and annoying war.

Massena invaded Portugal in 1811, but here he was faced by General Wellington, leading a British army, and was forced to retreat. Soult, who followed him, was equally unsuccessful, and when Napoleon in 1812 depleted his army in Spain for the Russian campaign, Wellington marched his army into Spain and, aided by the Spanish patriots, took possession of Madrid, driving King Joseph from his throne.


Meanwhile Napoleon had entered upon the greatest and most disastrous campaign in his history. Defied by Alexander I, Czar of Russia, he had declared war upon that empire and sought its conquest with the greatest army that ever marched under his banners. On the banks of the Niemen, a river that flows between Prussia and Poland, there gathered near the end of June 1812, an immense army of more than 600,000 men, attended by an enormous multitude of non-combatants, their purpose being the invasion of the empire of Russia. Of this great army, made up of troops from half the nations of Europe, there reappeared six months later on that broad stream about 16,000 armed men, almost all that were left of that stupendous host. The remainder had perished on the desert soil or in the frozen rivers of Russia, few of them surviving as prisoners in Russian hands. Such was the character of the dread catastrophe that broke the power of the mighty conqueror and delivered Europe from his autocratic grasp.

We cannot give the details of this fatal campaign, and shall only summarize its chief incidents. Barclay de Tolly, Alexander's commander in chief, adopted a Fabian policy, that of persistently avoiding battle, and keeping the French in pursuit of a fleeting will-of-the-wisp while their army wasted away from hardship and disease in the inhospitable Russian clime.

His method was a wise one, desertion, illness, death of the untrained recruits in rapid march under the hot midsummer sun, did the work of many battles, and when Smolensk was reached after two months of bootless marching, the "Grand Army" was bound to have been reduced to half its numbers.

Moscow, the old capital of the Empire, was Napoleon's goal. He felt sure that the occupation of that city would bring the Russians to bay and force them to accept terms of peace. He was sadly mistaken. The Russians, weary of retreating, faced him in one battle, that of Borodino. Here they fought stubbornly, but with the usual result. They could not stand against the impetuous dash of Napoleon's veterans and were forced to retreat, leaving 40,000 dead and wounded upon the field. But the French army had lost more than 30,000, including an unusual number of generals, two being killed and thirty-nine wounded.


On the 15th of September, Moscow, the "Holy City" of Russia was occupied, Napoleon taking up his quarters in the famous palace of the Kremlin, from which he hoped to dictate terms of peace to the obstinate Czar. What were his feelings on the next morning when word was brought him that Moscow was on fire, and flames were seen leaping into the air in all directions.

The fire had been premeditated. From every quarter rose the devouring flames. Even the Kremlin did not escape and Napoleon was obliged to seek shelter outside the city, which continued to burn for three days, when the wind sank and rain poured upon the smoldering embers.

The dismayed conqueror waited in vain. He wrote letters to the Czar, suggesting peace. His letters were left unanswered. He hung on despairingly until the 18th of October, when he reluctantly gave the order to retreat. Too long he had waited, for the terrible Russian winter was about to descend.

That retreat was a frightful one. The army had been reduced to 103,000 men; the army followers had also greatly decreased in numbers. But it was still a large host that set out upon its long march over the frozen Russian plains.

The Russian policy now changed. The retreating army was attacked at every suitable point. The food supply rapidly failed. On again reaching Smolensk the army was only 42,000 strong, though the camp followers are said to have still numbered 60,000.

On the 26th of November the ice-cold River Beresina was reached, destined to be the most terrible point on the whole dreadful march. Two bridges were thrown in all haste across the stream, and most of the men under arms crossed, but 18,000 stragglers fell into the hands of the enemy. How many were trodden to death in the press or were crowded from the bridge into the icy river cannot be told. It is said that when spring thawed the ice, 30,000 bodies were found and burned on the banks of the stream. A mere fragment of the great army remained alive. Ney, who had been the hero of the retreat, was the last man to cross that frightful stream.

On the 13th of December some 16,000 haggard and staggering men, almost too weak to hold the arms to which they still despairingly clung, recrossed the Niemen, which the "Grand Army" had passed in such magnificent strength and with such abounding resources less than six months before. It was the greatest and most astounding disaster in the military history of the world.


The lion was at bay, but there was fight left in him still. He hurried back to France, gathered another army, refused all offers of peace on the terms suggested by his enemies, and concentrated an army at Dresden. Here on August 26, 1813, his last great victory was won.

The final stand came at Leipzig, where, October 16-18, he waged a three days' battle against all the powers of central and eastern Europe. Then, his ammunition nearly exhausted, he was forced to give the order to retreat.

The struggle was soon at an end. France was quickly invaded, Paris was obliged to surrender, and on April 7, 1814, the emperor signed an act of abdication and was exiled to the small island of Elba, in the Mediterranean, with an army of 400 men, chosen from his famous Old Guard. But the Powers of Europe, despite their long experience of Napoleon, did not yet recognize the ability and audacity of the man with whom they had to deal. While the Congress of Vienna, convened to restore the old constitution of Europe, was deliberating and disputing, word came that their dethroned enemy was again on the soil of France and Louis XVIII, his successor, was in full flight. He had landed on March 1, 1815, and was marching back to Paris, the people and the army rallying to his support.


Then came the famous Hundred Days, in which Napoleon showed much of his old ability, rapidly organizing a new army, with which in June he marched into Belgium, where the British under Wellington and the Prussians under Blucher had gathered to meet him.

On the 16th he defeated Blucher at Ligny. On the 18th he met Wellington at Waterloo, and after a desperate struggle went down in utter defeat. All day long the French and British had fought without victory for either, but the arrival of Blucher with his Prussians turned the scale. The French army broke and fled in disastrous rout, three-fourths of its force being left on the field, dead, wounded, or prisoners. It was the great soldier's last fight. He was forced to surrender the throne, and was again exiled, this time to the island of St. Helena, in the south Atlantic. No such mistake as that of Elba was safe to make again. Here ended the days of Napoleon Bonaparte, the greatest soldier the world had ever known. His final hour of glory came in 1842, when his remains were brought in pomp to Paris, there to find a final resting place in the Hotel des Invalides.


This Congress of the rulers and statesmen of Europe, which opened in September, 1814, and continued its work after the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo, occupied itself with map-making on a liberal scale. The empire which the conqueror had built up at the expense of the neighboring countries, was quickly dismembered and France reduced to its former limits, while all the surrounding Powers took their shares of the spoils, Belgium and Holland being combined into a single kingdom.

As for the rights of the people, what had become of them? Had they been swept away and the old wrongs of the people brought back? Not quite. The frenzied enthusiasm for liberty and human rights of the past twenty-five years could not go altogether for nothing. The lingering relics of feudalism had vanished, not only from France but from all Europe, and no monarch or congress could bring them back again. In its place the principles of democracy had been carried by the armies of France throughout Europe and deeply planted in a hundred places, and their establishment as actual conditions was the most important part of the political development of the nineteenth century.


Map-making was not the whole work of the Congress of Vienna. An association was made of the rulers of Russia, Austria and Prussia, under the promising title of the "Holy Alliance." These devout autocrats proposed to rule in accordance with the precepts of the Bible, to govern their subjects like loving parents, and to see that peace, justice and religion should flourish in their dominions.

Such was the theory, the real purpose was one of absolute dominion, that of uniting their forces against democracy and revolution wherever these should show themselves. It was not long before there was work for them to do. The people began to move. The attempt to re-establish absolute governments shook them out of sluggish acceptance. Revolution lifted its head in spite of the Holy Alliance, its first field being Spain. Revolt broke out there in 1820 and was quickly followed by a similar revolt in Naples.

These revolutionary movements roused the members of the Alliance. An Austrian army invaded Italy, a French one, under the influence of the Alliance, was sent to Spain, and both the revolutions were vigorously quelled. The only revolt that succeeded was one in Greece against the Turkish power. There was no desire to sustain the Turks, and a Russian army was finally sent to aid the Greeks, whose freedom was attained in April, 1830.

Such were the chief events that followed the fall of Napoleon. Reaction was the order of the day. But it was a reaction that was to be violently shaken in the period now reached, the revolutionary year of 1830.

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