Изображения страниц

April 1814; in this, also, Wellington won the victory, and with it ended the Peninsular War.

No English general excepting Marlborough, and, in days of old, the Black Prince, and few men in any age or country, have run such a career of victory as Wellington did in this war. But although his battles had been fought in a good cause, to rescue the oppressed nations of the Peninsula from the tyrannical usurpation of Bonaparte, he could not but think mournfully over the multitude of brave Englishmen who had fallen during those six years of fighting. And of Frenchmen and Spaniards, half a million of men had lost their lives. There was hardly a village in the Peninsula in which the peasantry had not taken up arms to resist the invaders.

All this misery and destruction had taken place, because Bonaparte insisted on robbing the Spaniards and Portuguese of their own country. But at the very time that Wellington was fighting at Toulouse the last battle of the Peninsular War, Bonaparte had already been obliged to resign his usurped power. He abdicated the throne of France and Italy on the 11th April; but in those days there was neither railroad nor electric telegraph, and several days had passed before the people in the south of the country knew that Napoleon Bonaparte was no longer their sovereign.

He had worn out the patience of the French nation. During several years, they had been too proud of his victories and conquests to complain of the enormous number of men who fell in battle, or of the heavy taxes which they were obliged to pay to provide for the expenses of his wars; and,



besides this, Bonaparte had always made the nations whose countries he invaded furnish him with money, so that the expense did not greatly distress the French. But in the year 1812 he invaded Russia, and thereby brought about his own ruin.

When the accounts of Wellington's successes in Spain reached him, he was exceedingly angry; but he said he would soon subdue the English in the Peninsula, when once he had made himself master of Russia. Italy, Germany, Holland, and Flanders, were already at his feet; the little republic of Switzerland, and the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden, were obliged to obey him; and the emperor of Russia was his ally. But this was not enough. The Russian emperor would not always sacrifice the good of his subjects for the sake of pleasing Bonaparte; so he resolved to invade his dominions, and force him to obey. "I must," said he, "make but one nation of all the countries of Europe, and Paris shall be the capital of it, and of all the world." As for our own little island, that, of course, was to be utterly beaten and brought to the most humble obedience, as soon as Bonaparte had disposed of Russia and Spain. But-"man proposes, and God disposes."

In the summer of 1812, the French emperor gathered under his banner the most splendid army that Europe had ever seen; four hundred and fifty thousand men, with countless stores of artillery. The Russians had two noble armies, one in the north, the other in the south of the empire; but both together did not equal that of Bonaparte. But they had on their side two allies, which all Bonaparte's soldiers could not overcome: the first was

the love of the Russians for their emperor and their native land, so that they chose rather to waste their fields and burn their dwellings, than leave food or shelter for the enemy; and the next was the Russian winter.

From the end of June to the middle of September, the French marched through a wilderness; and lost a hundred thousand men by the way. But when, on the 14th September, they saw before them the domes and spires of Moscow, they thought their troubles were at an end. The city was silent and deserted-all the people had gone away; but there were the famous palaces of the Kremlin, the houses and shops full of all good things, and the troops exulted greatly that they had got into such comfortable quarters for the winter. It was only for a day. When night came, flames were seen rising from a hundred different places. Every part of the city was on fire, and it could not be extinguished, but burnt on, day after day, till four-fifths of Moscow were in ashes. In this miserable heap of ruins the French army remained five weeks, with nothing to eat but the flesh of their horses, which they killed and salted down,

It was quite plain now that Russia would not be conquered that year; so Bonaparte prepared to retreat to a warmer climate, before the winter should overtake him. But when he tried to go southward, he found a Russian army barring the way, and he was obliged to return through Smolensk and the western provinces, the way by which he had come. And in the first week of November came that terrible winter, with snow-storms and frost that never



thawed. The men, already weakened by hunger, dropped by thousands, and rose no more; the falling snow quickly buried them. Swarms of Cossacks hovered about the skirts of the French army, and killed great numbers; and at several posts, they found bodies of the regular troops waiting to give them battle. And thus, by cold, famine, and the sword, tens of thousands perished, week by week, and a great multitude were made prisoners.

By the end of November, of all that splendid host with which Bonaparte had thought to conquer Russia, but fifty thousand men remained, and some of these were so fearfully frost-bitten and disfigured, that they scarcely looked like human beings. He set off alone for Paris, and ordered three hundred thousand more soldiers to be levied directly. But the Prussians, and all the German nations, whom he had been trampling under foot, rose up now, and shook off his yoke; and the Russian armies began to march towards France. The year 1813 was spent in fighting; and there were some terrible battles, in which hundreds of thousands perished. But it was all in vain; by the beginning of 1814, the French were entirely driven out of Germany.

Again Bonaparte required three hundred thousand soldiers, and double taxes; but this time they did not come at his call. The French were weary, at last, of sending out their sons and brothers to die miserably, that one man might be master of the world. Still, with such men as he could collect, Bonaparte did his utmost to keep the Allies out of France; but it was too late. The English were already in the south of France; the Russians and Prussians entered the

north, and threatened to besiege Paris. Bonaparte was obliged to descend from the throne to which he had raised himself; and it was agreed that the crown of France should be given to Louis the Eighteenth, the brother of the unfortunate king who was put to death in the Revolution.




THE isle of Elba had been given to Bonaparte for a residence, and he took up his abode there in the beginning of May, 1814. In the following month, the Emperors of Russia and Austria, the King of Prussia, and a brilliant throng of foreign princes and generals, visited London, and received a triumphant welcome. All Europe rejoiced greatly that peace had come at last. But about nine months afterwards, while all the kings and great men were considering how to settle the affairs of the European states, which had been thrown into confusion by the wars and changes of the last twenty years, news was brought to them that Bonaparte had escaped from Elba, landed in France, summoned his old soldiers to join him, and marched into Paris without meeting the slightest opposition.

At first, they would hardly believe it; but it was

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »