NAPOLEON AND BLUCHER
Part 9 out of 12
"Is that your opinion, too, gentlemen?" asked Napoleon, turning
toward the generals. "Do you, though I have condescended to explain
to you at length my plan, and the motives that have caused me to
adopt it, still persist in your belief that it would be better not
to pass to the right bank of the Elbe, but to return to the Rhine?"
"Yes," cried the generals, unanimously, "we persist in our opinion."
Napoleon drew back a step, and a pallor overspread his face; but
apparently he remained as cold and calm as ever. "My plan has been
deeply calculated," he said, after a pause; "I have admitted into
it, as a probable contingency, the defection of Bavaria. I am
convinced that the plan of marching on Berlin is good. A retrograde
movement, in the circumstances in which we are placed, is
disastrous; and those who oppose my projects have undertaken a
serious responsibility. However, I will think of it, and inform you
of my final decision." [Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide Fain,
"Manuscrit de 1813," vol. i.] He saluted the generals with a
careless nod and retired again into his cabinet.
The generals looked with anxious faces at one another when the door
closed. "What shall we do now?" they inquired. "Wait, and not
yield!" murmured the most resolute among them, and all agreed to do
With gloomy glances did Napoleon, after his return to his cabinet,
look at the door that separated him from his mutinous generals. He
felt that now a new power had taken the field against him that might
become more dangerous than all the others, and that was the revolt
of his generals. He heard distinctly their last words. They had not
said, "We persist in our opinion, and would like to return," but,
"We must return to France." His generals, then, dared to have a will
of their own, and opposed to that of their emperor. They knew it,
and it did not deter them!
"Ah, the wretches," he murmured to himself, "they are blind! They
will not see that we are hastening to destruction. They compel me to
return as Alexander's generals compelled him to return! Woe to us!
We are lost!" He sank down on the sofa; and now, when none could see
him, the veil dropped from his face, the imperial mantle fell from
his cowering form, and he was but a weak, grief-stricken man, who,
with a pale and quivering face, was uncertain what to do. Hour after
hour elapsed. He was still sitting in the corner of the sofa, rigid
and motionless; only the sighs which heaved his breast from time to
time, and the quiver of his eyelids, betrayed the life that was
still animating him.
The court-marshal entered and announced dinner. The emperor waved
his hand to him that he might withdraw, and his marshals and
generals vainly awaited him. They looked at each other inquiringly
and murmured, "He is reflecting! We can wait, but we cannot yield!"
At the stated hour in the afternoon, the two topographers of the
emperor, Colonel Bacler d'Alba, and Colonel Duclay, entered the
emperor's cabinet. As usual, they rolled the table, covered with
maps and plans, before the emperor, and then took seats at the other
table standing in the corner, which was also covered in like manner.
They waited for the emperor, as was his habit, to speak and discuss
his movements with them. But he was silent; he took up, however, a
large sheet of white paper, and pen, and began to write. What did he
write? The topographers were unable to see it; they sat pen in hand,
and waited. But Napoleon was still silent. Hour after hour passed;
not a sound of the triumphant, joyous, and proud life which used to
surround the victorious emperor was to be heard in the dreary palace
of Duben. The anterooms were deserted; the generals remained all day
in the audience-room, and gazed with sullen faces upon the door of
the imperial cabinet. But this door did not open. In the cabinet the
emperor was still on his sofa, now leaning back in meditation, and
now bending over the map-table, and writing slowly. Opposite him sat
the two topographers, mournfully waiting for him to speak to them.
[Footnote: Odeleben, "The Campaign in Saxony in 1813."] But Napoleon
wrote, gazed into the air, sank back on the sofa, groaned, raised
himself again, and wrote on.
This indifference and silence made a strange impression, which
frightened even the generals, when the topographers, whom the
emperor had at length dismissed with a quick wave of the hand, and
an imperious "Go!" entered the audience-room, and told them of this
extraordinary conduct. But Napoleon had written something, and it
was all-important for them to know what. They wished to discover
whether letters or plans had been penned by the emperor, and with
what he had been occupied all day. "Let us speak with Constant,"
they whispered to each other. "He alone will enter the cabinet to-
day. He has keen eyes, and will be able to see what the emperor has
written." Constant consented to cast, at a favorable moment, a
passing glance on the emperor's desk. The generals remained in the
audience-room and waited.
An hour passed, when Constant, pale and sad, entered the room; he
held a large, crumpled sheet of paper in his hand. "The emperor has
retired," he whispered. "He called me, and when I entered the
cabinet, he was still sitting on the sofa at the map-table, and
engaged in writing. Suddenly he threw down the pen and seized the
paper, crumpled it in his hand, and threw it on the floor. I picked
it up, and may communicate it to you, for it contains no secrets."
All the generals stretched out their hands. Constant handed the
paper to Marshal Marmont. The sheet contained nothing but large
capital letters, joined with fanciful flourishes. [Footnote:
Constant, "Memoires," vol. v., p. 269.] The generals gazed at each
other with bewildered eyes. Those capital letters, this work of a
child, was the day's labor which the energetic emperor had
performed! The letters, traced so carefully and elaborately, made an
awful impression on the beholders--a whole history of secret
despair, stifled tears of grief, and bitter imprecations, spoke from
this crumpled sheet of paper. The generals turned pale, as if
imminent danger was hovering over them--as if Fate had sent them its
Runic letters, which they were unable to decipher. They left the
room in silence, but murmured still, "We can wait, but we cannot
Night had come. Silence settled on the mournful palace of Duben. The
emperor lay on his field-bed, but he did not sleep; for Constant,
who was in the cabinet adjoining the imperial bedchamber, heard him
often sigh and utter words of anger and grief. In the middle of the
night the valet heard a loud, piercing cry, and ran into the
bedchamber. The emperor was in agony, writhing, and a prey to
violent convulsions. He was ill with colic, which so often visited
him, and the pallor of death overspread his face.
Constant hastened to bring the usual remedies, but he did not send
for the doctor; for he knew that Napoleon did not like to have any
importance attached to this illness. The pain at length yielded to
the remedies applied. The emperor submitted to Constant's
entreaties, and drank the soothing tea which he always took at these
evil hours, and the efficacy of which in such cases had been
discovered by the Empress Josephine. He put the teacup on the table,
and locked very melancholy. Possibly he remembered how often
Josephine's presence had comforted him during such hours--how her
small hand had wiped the cold perspiration from his forehead--how
his weary head had rested in her lap, and how her tender words had
consoled and strengthened him. Possibly he remembered all this, for
he murmured in a low voice, "Ah, Josephine, why are you not with me?
You are my guardian angel! My star has set with you!" Then his head
sank back on the pillow, and he closed his eyes. Perhaps his grief
made him sleep.
Early on the following morning a carriage rolled into the court-
yard, and Marshal Augereau requested an audience of the emperor, who
had reentered his map-cabinet.
"Augereau," said the emperor to his marshal, "you bring me bad
"Only news, sire, which your majesty has already foreseen. It is the
defection of Bavaria, and her accession to the alliance."
The emperor bent his head on his breast. "It must be so. All are
deserting me. I must submit. Augereau," he said, aloud, "Bavaria has
deserted me, but, what is still worse, my generals have done so,
too. They will no longer follow me. They refuse to obey me; my plans
seem too rash and dangerous. They do not wish to go to Berlin--they
want peace! Do you understand, Augereau, peace at a moment when all
are arming--when war is inevitable, and when it is all-important for
me to extricate myself as advantageously as possible from the snare
in which we shall be caught if the allies profit by their
superiority, and draw together the net surrounding ns."
"Sire, and I believe they have the will to do so," cried Augereau.
"Nothing but the commanding military genius of your majesty is still
able to conquer."
A painful smile quivered round the pale lips of the emperor. "Ah,
Augereau," he said, "we are no longer the soldiers of Jena and
Austerlitz. I have no longer any generals on whose obedience I may
count. I shall give up my plan, I shall not pass over to the right
bank of the Elbe, but, by taking this resolution, I renounce all
victories and successes, and it only remains for me to succumb with
honor, and to have opened as advantageous a passage as possible
through Germany to France."
The marshals and generals were again assembled in the audience-room,
and gazed in sullen expectation at the door of the imperial cabinet.
Suddenly the emperor, pale and calm as usual, walked in, followed by
Marshal Augereau. All eyes were fixed upon the emperor, whose lips
were to proclaim the events of the future.
Advancing into the middle of the room, he raised his head, and
sternly glanced along the line of generals. "Gentlemen," he said, in
a loud voice, "I have changed my plan. We shall not pass over to the
right bank of the Elbe, but turn toward Leipsic to-morrow. May those
who have occasioned this movement never regret it!" [Footnote:
Napoleon's words.--Constant, vol. v., p. 260.]
A shout of joy burst forth when the emperor paused. The generals
surrounded him, now that they had attained their object, to thank
him for his magnanimity, and then they cheerfully looked at each
other, shook hands, and exclaimed in voices trembling with emotion,
"We shall again embrace our parents, our wives, our children, our
friends!" [Footnote: Ibid.]
"Ah, Augereau," said the emperor, mournfully, "you see I could not
act otherwise; it was their will! But you, who are of my opinion
that this retrograde movement is a calamity, will be able to testify
in my favor if the future shows that I am right. You will state that
I was compelled to pursue a path which I knew would lead to
THE BATTLE OF LEIPSIC.
The struggle had already been going on for two days. On the 15th and
16th of October the Austrians, Russians, Prussians, and Swedes, had
fought a number of engagements with the French between Halle and
Leipsic. The Austrians, or the army of Bohemia, commanded by
Schwartzenberg, the general-in-chief, had been defeated by the
French at Wachau on the 16th of October; but the Prussians and
Russians, under Blucher, had gained a brilliant victory at Mockern
on the 16th of October; and though the Swedes, under Bernadotte, had
not participated in the battle, and had, as usual, managed on that
day to keep away from the carnage, they had at the same time
contrived to participate in the glory of victory.
The French had not gained a single decisive battle during these two
days, and yet Napoleon himself was at the head of his forces,
directing their movements. Thousands of his soldiers lay on the
blood-stained field of Wachau, and thousands more were mown down at
Mockern. His army was melting away hour by hour, while that of his
enemies constantly increased. Fresh reserves were moved up; the
battle array of the allies grew more imposing and overwhelming, and
the great, decisive battle was drawing nigh.
It was the evening of the second day, the 16th of October. Napoleon,
who had his headquarters on the preceding day at Reudnitz, four
miles from Leipsic, removed them for the night into the open field,
from which the city could be seen, and behind it the numerous fires
of the allies gleamed through the gathering shades. Beside the
emperor's tent a large camp-fire was kindled, and near it, on a
small field-stool, covered with red morocco, sat Napoleon, his gray
overcoat closely buttoned up, his three-cornered hat drawn over his
forehead, and his arms folded on his breast. His guards, who were
encamping in the plain in wide circles around him, could distinctly
see him, partially illuminated by the camp-fire. That bent, dark
form was their only hope--a hope which did not look up to the stars
shining above them, but which was satisfied with a mortal, who they
believed could guide and protect them. And he indeed could save them
from death by discontinuing the struggle, by accepting peace, though
at the heaviest cost--at the sacrifice of all his possessions
outside of France.
Two forms approached the camp-fire. It was only when they stood by
the emperor's side, that he perceived them and looked up. He
recognized the grave faces of Marshal Berthier and Count Daru.
"What do you want?" he asked, in a husky voice.
"Sire," said Berthier, solemnly, "we come, as envoys of all the
superior officers of the army, to lay our humble requests before
"Have you any thing to request?" asked Napoleon, sneeringly. "I
thought I had fulfilled at Duben all the wishes of my generals; I
gave up my plan against Berlin and the right bank of the Elbe, and
marched to Leipsic, in order to take the direct road to France. Are
my generals not yet satisfied?"
"Sire, who could suppose that on this road we would meet all the
corps of the allies?" sighed the Prince of Neufchatel. "Even your
majesty did not know it."
"I did not," replied Napoleon, "but my star forewarned me, and I
conceived the plan of going to Berlin. You overcame my will; what do
you still want?"
"Sire," said Berthier, almost timidly, "we want to implore your
majesty to offer an armistice and peace to the allies. Our troops
are dreadfully exhausted by these days of incessant fighting, and
are, besides, discouraged by the continued victories of our enemies.
The generals, too, are disheartened, the more so as we are unable to
continue the struggle two days longer, because our ammunition begins
to fail. We have recently used such a vast amount that scarcely
enough remains for a single day. Sire, if we, however, continue to
fight and are defeated, the road to France is open to our enemies,
and your majesty cannot prevent the allies from marching directly
upon Paris, for France has no soldiers to defend her when our army
is routed. Let your majesty, therefore, have mercy on your country
and your people; discontinue the war, and make proposals of peace!"
"Yes, sire." said Daru, "become anew the benefactor of your country,
overcome your great heart for the welfare of your people and your
army, whose last columns are assembled around you, and await life or
death from your lips. The terrible, unforeseen event has taken us by
surprise; we were not sufficiently prepared. We have no ambulances,
no hospitals; all the elements of victory are wanting, for when the
soldier knows that, after the battle, if he should be wounded or
taken sick, he will find a good bed, careful treatment, and medical
attendance, he goes with a feeling of some sort of security into
battle; but we are destitute of these necessities. Your majesty
knows full well that this is no fault of mine, but still it is so,
and that we lack almost every thing. Your majesty, therefore, will
be gracious enough to take a resolution which, it is true, is
painful and deplorable, but under the circumstances indispensable."
Napoleon listened to the two gentlemen with calmness and attention.
When Count Daru was silent, he fixed a sarcastic eye first on him,
then on Berthier. "Have you anything else to say?" he then asked.
The two gentlemen bowed in silence.
"Well, then," said Napoleon, rising, and, with his arms folded, "I
will reply to both of you. Berthier, you know that I do not attach
to your opinion in such matters as much as a straw's value; you may,
therefore, save yourself the trouble of speaking! As to you, Count
Daru, it is your task to wield the pen, and not the sword; you are
incapable of passing an opinion on this question. As to those who
are of the same way of thinking, and whose envoys you are, tell them
as my determined and final answer simply, 'They shall obey!'"
[Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide "Memoirs of the Duchess
d'Abrantes," vol. xvi., p. 386.]
He turned his back upon them and entered his tent. Constant and
Roustan had taken pains to give it as comfortable and elegant an
appearance as possible. A beautiful Turkish carpet covered the
floor. On the table in the middle of the tent were placed the
emperor's supper, consisting of some cold viands on silver plates
and dishes. On another table was an inkstand, papers, books, and
maps; and in a nook, formed by curtains and draperies, stood the
emperor's field-bed. The sight of this snug little room, and the
stillness surrounding him, seemed to do him good; the solitude
allowed him to let the mask fall from his face, and to permit the
melancholy and painful thoughts which filled his soul to reflect
themselves in his features. With a sigh resembling a groan he sank
down on the easy-chair. "They want to crush me to earth," he
murmured--"to transform the giant into a pigmy, because they are too
much afraid of his strength. Their fear has at length made brave men
of these allies, and they have resolved to put me on the bed of
Procrustes, and to reduce me to the size of a common man, like
themselves. Will it be necessary to submit to this? Must I allow
them to cut off my limbs, to save my life?" He paused, and became
absorbed deeper in his reflections.
Suddenly he was interrupted by approaching footsteps. The curtain of
the tent was drawn back, and one of the emperor's adjutants
appeared. "Sire," he said, "the Austrian General Meerfeldt, who was
taken prisoner by your majesty's troops at Wachau, has just arrived
under escort, and awaits your orders."
The emperor rose more quickly than usual. "Fate responds to my
questions and doubts," he said to himself, hastily pacing his tent
floor. "I endeavored to find an expedient, and a mediator appears
between myself and my enemies. All is not yet lost, then, for Fate
seems still to be my ally." He turned with a quick motion of his
head toward the adjutant. "Admit General Meerfeldt. I will see him."
A few minutes afterward the Austrian general entered the tent. The
emperor quickly met him, and gazed with a strange, triumphant look
into the embarrassed face of the count. "I believe we are old
acquaintances," said Napoleon, "for, if I am not mistaken, it was
you who, in 1797, solicited the armistice of Leoben, and you
participated, too, in the negotiations which terminated in the
treaty of Campo-Formio."
"Yes, sire, you are right; I had at that time the good fortune to
become acquainted with General Bonaparte," said Count Meerfeldt,
with a deep bow; "he was just entering a career which has led him
from victory to victory, and adorned his head with well-merited
"Yes, you were one of the signers of the treaty of Campo-Formio,"
exclaimed Napoleon. "But that was not all. Was it not you who wished
to present me, in the name of the emperor of Austria, with some
magnificent gifts? What was it you came to offer me then?"
"Sire," said the count, in confusion, "I had orders to repeat that
which Count Cobenzl had already vainly proposed to General
Bonaparte. I had orders to offer him, in the emperor's name, a
principality in Germany, several millions in ready money, and a team
of six white horses."
"I declined the principality in Germany because I thought that one
ought either to inherit or conquer sovereignties, but never accept
them as gifts, for he who accepts a gift always remains the moral
vassal of the giver. I rejected the millions because I would not
allow myself to be bribed; but I did accept the six horses, and with
them made my entry into Germany and came to Rastadt."
"It was the first triumphal procession of your majesty in Germany,
and, like Julius Gassar you could say, 'I came, saw, and
"Since then circumstances have greatly changed," said the emperor,
thoughtfully; "General Bonaparte became the Emperor Napoleon, and
the latter did what General Bonaparte refused to do: he accepted at
the hands of the Emperor of Austria a gift more precious than
principalities, for it was a beautiful young wife. Ah, general, you
are my prisoner, and I ought not to release you, but send you to
Paris, that you might have the good fortune of kissing the hand of
the Empress of France, the daughter of my enemy, and of seeing
whether the little fair-haired King of Rome looks like his
grandfather.--But no, I will set you at liberty, I will make you my
negotiator! You were one of those with whom I concluded, in the name
of France, the first peace with Austria; I, therefore, commission
you now to mediate my last peace; for I want to wage no more wars--I
am tired of this unceasing bloodshed; I ask naught but to repose in
peace, and dream of the happiness of France, after having dreamed of
its glory. Go, repeat this to the emperor, your master; tell him
that I desire no more conquests, but repose. Tell him that I long
for nothing more ardently than peace, and that I am ready to
conclude it, even before our swords have crossed."
"Sire," said Count Meerfeldt, hesitatingly, "if I repeat all this to
the emperor, he will ask me what guaranties your majesty offers him,
and what cessions of territory you propose to make."
"Cessions of territory!" exclaimed Napoleon. "Yes, that is it! You
want to render me powerless; that is all you are fighting for; that
is why the Russians and Swedes are in Germany; that is why the
Germans accept subsidies at the hands of England!--all to attain a
single object: to deprive me of my power, and narrow the boundaries
of France. But do you think that the Russians, the Swedes, and the
English, will require no indemnities for services rendered, and that
they will very conveniently find them in the territories which you
propose to wrest from me? What will Germany gain thereby? She will
have rendered France, her natural ally, so powerless that she can
never assist her, and, in return, she will have secured a footing in
Germany to her three natural enemies, Russia--that is, barbarism;
England--that is, foreign industry and commerce in colonial goods;
Sweden--that is, navigation on the northern shores. But you will do
all this rather than leave me in possession of my power, though I
tell you that I wish to fight no more, but long for repose. Is it
"Sire," said Count Meerfeldt, in a low voice, "the allied sovereigns
are, perhaps, familiar with the words of Caesar, who said that
laurels, if they were not to wither, should be often bathed in
hostile blood, and fed every year with soil from new fields of
victory. Your majesty being the modern Caesar, the allies may be
afraid lest you should adopt this maxim."
"Yes," cried Napoleon, "you are afraid of the very sleep of the
lion; you fear that you will never be easy before having pared his
nails and cut his mane. Well, then, after you have placed him in
this predicament, what will be the consequence? Have the allied
sovereigns reflected? You think only of repairing, by a single
stroke, the calamities of twenty years; and, carried away by this
idea, you never perceive the changes which time has made around you,
and that for Austria to gain now, at the expense of France, is to
lose. Tell your sovereign to take that into consideration, Count
Meerfeldt; it is neither Austria, nor France, nor Prussia, singly,
that will be able to arrest on the Vistula the inundation of a half-
nomadic people essentially conquering, and whose dominions extend to
China. I comprehend, however, that in order to make peace, I must
make sacrifices and I am ready to do so. [Footnote: Napoleon's
words.--Fain, "Manuscrit de 1813," vol. i., pp. 412, 414.] For the
very purpose of stating this to the Emperor Francis, I set you at
liberty, provided you give me your parole to serve no longer in this
campaign against France."
"Sire, to fight against France has been so painful a duty that I
joyfully give my word to serve no longer unless permitted to do so
for France--that is to say, for your majesty."
"You may go, then, and lay my proposals before the Emperor Francis.
You will tell him this: I offer to evacuate all fortresses in
Germany to the Rhine, and consent to the dissolution of the
Confederation of the Rhine. I am ready to restore Illyria and Spain
to their former sovereigns. I further consent to the independence of
Italy and Holland. If England refuses to grant peace on the seas, we
will try to negotiate it, and Austria is to be the mediator."
"Sire, these are such satisfactory promises," cried Count Meerfeldt,
"that I am afraid my mere word will be insufficient to convince my
master that you really intend to grant so much."
"I will give you a letter to the Emperor Francis, in which I shall
make these proposals," said Napoleon, quickly. "Yes, I will write
once more to the emperor. Our political alliance is broken, but
between your master and me there is another bond, which is
indissoluble. That is what I invoke, for I always place confidence
in the regard of my father-in-law."
He went to his desk, and penned a few lines with a hasty hand,
folded, sealed, and directed the letter. "Here," he said,
approaching the count, "is my letter to my father-in-law. You will
immediately repair to him, and deliver it into his hands. The
emperor will communicate it to the other sovereigns, and they will
take their resolutions accordingly. Tell him that I shall not attack
to-morrow, but discontinue further hostilities until I have received
his answer; and that I shall certainly expect him to return an
answer by to-morrow. Adieu, general! When on my behalf you speak to
the two emperors of an armistice, I doubt not the voice which
strikes their ears will be eloquent indeed in recollections."
[Footnote: Napoleon's words.--Vide Beitzke, vol. ii., p. 592.]
"It is my last effort," murmured the emperor to himself, when Count
Meerfeldt had left; "if it fail, nothing but a struggle of life and
death remains to me, and, by Heaven, I will certainly fight it out!
The crisis is at hand, and I cannot evade it. I will meet it with my
eyes open. The laurels of Marengo and Austerlitz are not yet
withered. To-morrow there will be a cessation of hostilities, and on
the day after to-morrow peace, or war to the last!"
On the 17th of October no hostilities took place. Napoleon awaited
the reply of his father-in-law. But it did not come; it was deemed
unnecessary to observe the forms of courtesy toward him before whom,
only a year ago, they had prostrated themselves so often in the
The battle recommenced on the 18th of October. The booming of a
thousand cannon was the answer of the allies. Napoleon, with only
three hundred cannon, replied that he understood this answer to his
peace propositions. Upward of three hundred thousand soldiers of the
allies filled the plains around Leipsic. Napoleon had scarcely one
hundred and twenty thousand to oppose to them, and his men were
exhausted and discouraged. But he appeared on this day along the
whole line, encouraging his troops by his cheerful countenance and
his brief addresses. He seemed to infuse fresh courage and
enthusiasm into the hearts of the French. They arose with the
heroism of former days, and plunged into the thickest of the fight;
the earth trembled beneath the thunder of cannon, the cheers of the
victors, and the imprecations of the vanquished. The French did not
yield an inch; they stood like a wall, broken here and there, but
the gaps filled up again in a moment, and those who had taken the
places of the fallen exhibited the same devoted heroism, for
Napoleon was there.
And Blucher was also there. He halted opposite the enemy with his
Silesian army (one-half of which he had placed under the crown
prince of Sweden), composed of Russians and Prussians. Blucher, too,
fired the hearts of his men by energetic words, and they fought with
matchless bravery, for they fought before the eyes of their general.
He shared with them every fatigue and danger; he drank with them,
when he was thirsty, from one bottle; lighted his pipe from their
pipes, and spoke to them, not in the condescending tone of a master,
but in their own unreserved and cordial manner. Rushing onward with
shouts of victory, they attacked the enemy with irresistible
impetuosity, forcing the French to fall back, step by step.
"Every thing is going on right, Gneisenau!" exclaimed Blucher.
"Bonaparte cannot hold out; he must at length retreat. He is
contracting the circle of his troops more and more, and advancing
toward Leipsic. Ah, I understand, M. Bonaparte; you want to march
through Leipsic and keep open the passage across the Saale! But it
won't do--it won't do! For Blucher is here, and his eyes are yet
good.--A courier! Come here! Ride to General York! He is to set out
this very night and occupy the banks of the Saale, and impede as
much as possible the retreat of the enemy, who intends to fall back
across the Saale.--Another courier! Ride to General Langeron! He is
to return to-night to the right bank of the Partha, support General
Sacken, and, as soon as the enemy begins to retreat, pursue him with
the utmost energy."
"But, general," said Gneisenau, when the courier galloped off, "as
yet Napoleon does not seem to think of retreating. He maintains his
position and offers a bold front."
"He will not do so to-morrow," said Blucher, laconically. "If we do
to-day what we can. he is annihilated. God grant that our victory
may be followed up, and that they may not grow soft-hearted again at
headquarters! The Emperor of Austria never forgets that Bonaparte is
his son-in-law; nor the crown prince of Sweden that he is a native
of France, and he would like to spare his countrymen further
bloodshed; nor the Emperor of Russia, that at Erfurt he plighted
eternal fidelity to Napoleon, and kissed him as his brother. But our
king, I believe, will always remember that Bonaparte humiliated and
oppressed us, and that Queen Louisa died of grief and despair. He
will not suffer the others to make peace too early, and cause us to
shed our blood and spend our strength for nothing. We must be
indemnified, and it is by no means enough for us merely to gain a
victory over Bonaparte. He must surrender all that he has taken from
us. Germany must have satisfaction, and I must have mine, too; for
the anger I have felt for years has almost killed me. I want to be
even with him, and shall not rest before he is hurled from his
throne.--What is going on there? Why are they cheering yonder? Look,
Gneisenau, one of the enemy's columns is advancing upon us. Do you
hear the music? What does it mean?"
"It means, general," shouted an orderly, who galloped up, "that the
Saxons are coming over to us. With thirty-two field-pieces, and
drums beating, they have left the lines of the French, and, when
these tried to prevent them, they turned their bayonets against
their former comrades."
Blucher's eye lit up. "Well," he said, "now they will no longer
extol Bonaparte's extraordinary luck. To-day at least he has none.
The Saxons have felt at last that they are Germans, and wish to
purge themselves of their disgrace. I say, Gneisenau, Bonaparte must
retreat to-morrow." And what Blucher said here to Gneisenau was what
Berthier said to Napoleon: "The battle is lost! We must retreat."
Night came. It is true, the French remained on the field; they did
not flee, but they had no strength to continue the battle; their
ammunition was exhausted, for they had discharged on this day an
incredible amount of cannon-shot. Napoleon felt that he had
certainly to retreat, and submit to what was inevitable. At the
camp-fire, near the turf-mill, sat the emperor; his generals
surrounded him, and listened in silence to his words, falling from
his lips slowly and sadly. He ordered dispositions to be made for a
retreat, and Berthier repeated the orders to his two adjutants, who
were kneeling on the other side of the camp-fire, and writing them
down. Suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, Napoleon paused, and
his head dropped on his breast. The emperor had fallen asleep!
His generals, respecting this respite from sorrow and misfortune,
preserved silence. The fire shed a blood-red lustre over the group;
at times the flames flickered up higher, and illuminated the form of
the emperor, who, with his head on his breast, his arms hanging down
on both sides of the camp-stool, his body gently moving to and fro,
was still wrapped in slumber. At times, when the fire blazed up, and
shed a flood of light on the plain, shadows were seen emerging from
the gloom, and a long line moved past. It was a portion of the
imperial army already retreating toward Leipsic.
A quarter of an hour thus elapsed when Napoleon gave a slight start,
and, raising his head, cast a long look of astonishment on the
persons surrounding him. His sleep had made him for an instant
forget his troubles, but the sombre glances of his generals and the
noise of the troops filing by, reminded him of what had happened.
His eye resumed its calm expression, and, in a firm, sonorous voice
he recommenced giving his orders. Suddenly a whizzing sound was in
the air above him--a grenade fell to the ground close to the
emperor, burrowed into the earth, and scattered the camp-fire.
"It is a cold night," said the emperor, composedly; "make up the
fire again, and add fresh fuel!"
The adjutants ran to collect the firebrands, and the generals
themselves hastened to pile on the fuel. But another whizzing sound
rent the air, and another grenade fell into the fire, which had just
blazed up again; it almost extinguished the flames, and remained in
the midst of the coals.
Napoleon gazed musingly on the ball, and strange thoughts probably
filled his soul at the sight of this messenger at his feet.
[Footnote: Beitzke, vol. ii., p. 615.] "It is enough," he said
calmly; "no more fire may be kindled! My horse! To Leipsic! I will
spend the night there." The horses were brought; attended by
Berthier, Caulaincourt, and a few orderlies, the emperor rode to
Leipsic, and took up his quarters at the Hotel de Prusse.
THE NINETEENTH OF OCTOBER.
It was eight o'clock on the following morning. A dense fog covered
Leipsic as with an impenetrable veil, and extended far over the
landscape. No one could see as yet, in the darkness of the night,
what had been done by friend or foe. At times the allies heard loud
explosions, and saw flashes on the side of the French; then all was
dark and silent again. Suddenly, however, a bright glare illuminated
the night, for in the French camp large fires blazed, and, like a
flaming serpent, stretched our far into the plain.
"Ha!" said Blucher; "Gneisenau, I was right after all: Bonaparte is
retreating. Do you know the meaning of those fires? The French have
placed their caissons on both sides of the road, and set them on
fire, that they may serve as beacons to the retreating troops. See!
they reach up to the city of Leipsic. It is as I said; the French
intend to march through that city, and retreat across the Saale.
Well, I think General York will await them there, and Langeron will
finish them. But come, Gneisenau, the fog is clearing. Let us ride
to yonder knoll; we shall be able to see better there."
With the nimbleness of a lad Blucher mounted his horse, and, no
longer restraining his impatience, he galloped off. Gneisenau rode
by his side, and at some distance behind him trotted the pipe-
master, with the iron box on the pommel of his saddle.
They reached the crest of the knoll and stopped. The fog had
disappeared, and they could distinctly see a field of horror and
desolation as far as their eyes reached. The immense plain was
covered far and wide with piles of corpses; rivulets of blood
intersected the down-trodden soil; fragments of wagons, cannon, and
vast heaps of horses, lay in wild disorder, and all around the
horizon gleamed the dying fires of upward of twenty villages.
Blucher cast a mournful look on this harrowing spectacle.
"Gneisenau," he said, "it is almost impossible for one to rejoice
over this victory, for it costs too many tears--too much blood. How
those poor brave men are lying there, dead or dying, and have not
even a grave at which their mothers and wives may weep! May the good
God in heaven have mercy on their souls, and comfort those who are
weeping for them!" He took off his cap, and, shading his face with
it, uttered a short, low prayer for the repose of the dead. With a
quick jerk he then put on his cap again. "Well," he said, "we have
prayed, and we will now try to find that accursed Bonaparte, who is
at the bottom of all this carnage, and--"
At this moment the pipe-master galloped up to his general.
"Well, what do you want, Christian?"
"The morning pipe," said Christian, presenting the short pipe to his
Blucher stretched out his hand for it, but drew it back and cast a
glance on the piles of dead which covered the battle-field. "No,
pipe-master," he said, solemnly, "it would be unbecoming to smoke
here. We should show our respect for the dead; but hold the pipe in
readiness for me, and when we ride back I will take it. Now, get out
of my way, that I may no longer see the pipe, else--Begone,
"No, I shall stay," said the pipe-master, coolly; "I have promised
the general's wife always to stay near him, and, besides, you will
soon need me, for you will not stand it long without your pipe. Call
me, your excellency, when you want me." He moved his horse a few
steps back, and was busily occupied in keeping the general's pipe
Blucher and Gneisenau in the mean time were keenly looking to the
side of the French camp; but not a vestige of it was to be seen.
There could be no doubt now that Napoleon had commenced retreating;
he had profited by the night to remove the remnants of his army
toward Leipsic, that they might still be able to cross the Saale
without hinderance. Blucher uttered a loud cry of joy. "He is
retreating! Gneisenau, am I right now?"
"Yes, general, you are. With your sagacity you have divined
Napoleon's plans better than the rest of us, and, thanks to your
wise dispositions, he will find Langeron and Sacken at the gates of
Leipsic, and York on the banks of the Saale."
"My dear sir, he will find us, too," exclaimed Blucher, in great
glee. "We are not through yet; I know Napoleon thoroughly. You
think, perhaps, that he has merely rested at Leipsic, and will
evacuate the city without fighting? No, sir, then you do not know
much about him. He will not yield an inch unless he must. By a
battle in and around Leipsic, he intends to cover the retreat of his
army, and I tell you, Gneisenau, we shall have hard work yet.
"Yes, forward!" cried Gneisenau. "We must dispatch couriers to all
the generals, and send them the glad tidings."
"Now comes the last assault," shouted Blucher. "We must take the
city by storm; and this will blow Bonaparte over the Rhine, and back
to France, like a bundle of rags! Forward! Pipe-master, my pipe! We
will attack them!"
At ten in the morning the cannon commenced booming again around
Leipsic. The city was attacked on all sides by the armies of the
allies. In the south stood the commander-in-chief, Prince
Schwartzenberg, with the Austrian army; in the east, the Russian
General Benningsen and the crown prince of Sweden; in the north,
Blucher, with the Prussians, and the Russian corps under General
"Charge!" shouted Blucher to his troops. "General Bulow has attacked
the Halle gate; we must hasten to his assistance, for the French are
At this moment another volley of grape-shot was discharged from the
pieces which the French had placed inside the city, and hurled death
and destruction into the ranks of the assailants.
"We must reenforce Bulow," cried Blucher! "General Sacken must
advance his troops! We must hurl light infantry against the gate!
Charge! Forward!" And, brandishing his sword, Blucher galloped to
the side of General Sacken, who was moving with the Russians toward
the point of attack.
"Forward!" thundered Blucher to the troops. The Russians did not
understand him, but they saw his countenance radiant with impatience
and warlike ardor, his flashing eyes, and uplifted hand pointing the
sword at the gate, and they understood his meaning.
"Perod!" shouted the Russians, exultingly. "Forward! Perod!"
The grape-shot of the enemy, and the rattling fire of the French
skirmishers behind the walls, drowned their shouts. But when the
artillery ceased and the smoke disappeared, they saw again the face
of the old general with his young eyes, and the long white mustache,
He halted on his horse in the midst of the shower of bullets fired
by the skirmishers, and uttered again and again his favorite
"Marshal Perod!" shouted the Russians. "He is a little Suwarrow!
Long live little Suwarrow! Long live Marshal Forward!" and, amid
renewed battle--cries in honor of Blucher, and with resistless
impetuosity, the Russians assaulted the gate.
While these scenes were passing outside the city, Napoleon remained
within. He had sat up till daylight with Caulaincourt and Bertmer,
receiving reports and issuing orders; toward morning he had slept a
little, and now, at ten o'clock, he dictated his last orders to the
two generals. In the streets were heard the roar of artillery, the
crashing of falling buildings, the wails, shrieks, and shouts of the
terrified inhabitants. The field-pieces rattled past, regiments
trotted along, and disappeared around the corners, constituting a
scene of indescribable terror and destruction; but here, in the
emperor's room, every thing presented a spectacle of peace and
repose. Caulaincourt and Berthier sat at their desks, writing. The
emperor was slowly walking up and down. He did not even listen to
the noise outside; he dictated his orders in a calm, firm voice, and
his face was as immovable as usual.
"Marshal Macdonald," said the emperor, concluding his instructions,
"is commissioned to defend the city and the suburbs; for this
purpose he will have his own corps, and those of Lauriston,
Poniatowsky, and Keynier. He will hold the city until the corps of
Marmont and Ney have evacuated it, and the rear-guard safely
withdrawn. As soon as these troops have crossed the Pleisse, the
bridge will be blown up." He nodded to his generals, and, striding
across the room, opened the door of the antechamber. "To horse,
gentlemen!" he shouted to the generals assembled there. "We must
start for Erfurt!" He slowly descended the staircase and mounted his
horse, the generals and adjutants following him in silence.
But the emperor did not turn his horse toward the side where the
troops were marching along in heavy columns; he rode to the market-
place, and halted in front of a large, old-fashioned house in the
middle of the square. The King of Saxony and his consort lived
there. "Wait!" said the emperor to his suite, alighting from his
horse, and walking past the saluting sentinels into the house.
In the small sitting-room up-stairs were old King Frederick
Augustus, his consort, and the Princess Augusta. The king sat with
his hands folded on his knees, and his lustreless eye fixed on the
windows, trembling incessantly from the roar of artillery and the
rattle of musketry. The queen was near him, and whenever the volleys
resounded, she groaned, and covered her face with her handkerchief,
which was already moist with tears. The Princess Augusta knelt in a
corner of the room, praying, while tears were rolling down her
"Oh," murmured the queen when another rattle of musketry rent the
air, "why does not a bullet strike my heart!"
"Father in heaven, and all saints, have mercy on us!" prayed the
"Grant victory to the great and noble Emperor Napoleon, my God!"
sighed the king. "I love him as a father, and he has always treated
me with the love of a son. I have remained faithful to him when all
the others betrayed him. Punish not my constancy, therefore, my Lord
and God; grant victory to Napoleon, that happiness may be restored
A cry burst from the lips of the queen, and she started up from her
seat. "The emperor!" she cried, looking toward the door.
Yes, in the open door that form in the gray, buttoned-up overcoat,
with the small hat, and pale, stony face, was the Emperor
Napoleon's. "I come to bid you farewell," he said, stepping slowly
and calmly to the king.
"Farewell!" groaned Frederick Augustus, sinking back. "All is lost,
"No, not all, sire," said Napoleon, solemnly. "We have lost a
battle, but not our honor. The fortune of battles is fickle. After
twenty years of victory, it has this time declared against me. But
honor remains to me. I have, for four days, held out against an army
three times as large as mine in troops, as well as in artillery, and
they have not overpowered me. I have voluntarily evacuated the
battle-field, not in a wild flight as did the Prussians at Jena, and
the Austrians at Austerlitz. Our honor is intact. With that we must
content ourselves this time."
"Oh, sire," cried the king, with tearful eyes, "how generous you
are! You speak of our honor! But _I_ have lost my honor, for my
troops have committed treason--they deserted my noble, beloved ally
during the battle! Oh, sire, pardon me! I am innocent of the
defection of my troops!" And, rising, the king made a movement as if
to kneel; but Napoleon held him in his arms, and then gently pressed
him back into the easy-chair. "Sire," he said, "treason is a disease
which, by this time, has become an epidemic in Germany. All those
who are now fighting against me are traitors, for all of them were
my allies, and, while still negotiating with me, they had already
formed a league against me. Your Saxons were infected by the troops
from Bavaria, Wurtemberg, and Baden."
"Alas," sighed the king, "I had a better opinion of my Saxons! They
have turned traitors, and my heart will always remain inconsolable."
"But this is no time for giving way to grief," said Napoleon. "Your
majesty must leave Leipsic immediately. You must not expose yourself
to the dangers of a capitulation, which, unfortunately, has become
unavoidable. Come, sire, intrust yourself to my protection. By my
side, and in the midst of my troops, you will be safe."
"No," said the king, resolutely; "I remain! Let them kill me; I am
tired of the dangers of flight! But you, sire, you must make haste!
Leave us!--your precious life must not be endangered! Every minute
renders the peril more imminent! Hasten to preserve yourself to your
people, your consort, and your son!"
"My son!" said Napoleon, and for the first time something like an
expression of pain flashed over his features. "Poor little King of
Rome, from whose blond ringlets his own grand-father wants to tear
the crown!" He dropped his head on his breast.
"Sire, make haste!" implored the king.--"Make haste!" echoed the
queen and the princess.
At this moment there was a terrific roar of artillery. The queen
buried her face in her hands; the princess had knelt again and
prayed; the king leaned his head against the back of the chair, pale
as a corpse, and with his eyes closed. Napoleon alone stood erect;
his face was calm and inscrutable; his glances were turned toward
the windows, and he seemed to listen eagerly to the thunders of war.
The door was violently opened, and General Caulaincourt appeared,
pale and breathless.
"Sire," he said, "you must leave! Bernadotte has taken one of the
suburbs by assault, and the forces of Blucher, Benningsen, and
Schwartzenberg, are pouring in on all sides into the city, so that
our troops are compelled to defend themselves from house to house."
"Sire, have mercy!--save yourself!" cried the king. "I can no longer
help you, no longer support you! I have nothing left to give you--
nothing but my life, and that is of no value! Save yourself, unless
you want me to die at your feet!"
"Sire," exclaimed Caulaincourt, "every minute increases the danger.
A quarter of an hour hence your majesty may, perhaps, be unable to
get out of the captured city." Napoleon turned with a haughty
movement toward his general. "Nonsense," he said, "have I not a
sword at my side? But, as you wish me to go, sire--as you are
alarmed, I will leave! Farewell! May we meet in happier
"Sire, up there!" said the king, solemnly, pointing toward heaven.
He then quickly rose from his seat, and approaching Napoleon, who
had taken leave of the queen and the princess, took his arm and
conducted him hastily out of the room, through the corridor, and
down the staircase. At the foot he stood, and clasping the emperor
in his arms, whispered, "Farewell, sire; I feel it is forever! I
shall await you in heaven! Not another word now, sire! Make haste!"
He turned, and slowly reascended the staircase. The emperor mounted
his horse, and directed his course toward the gate of Ranstadt.
Behind him rode Berthier, Caulaincourt, and a few generals; a
mounted escort followed them.
The streets presented a spectacle of desolation and horror, which,
the closer they approached the gate, became more heart-rending.
Field-pieces, caissons, soldiers on foot and on horseback, screaming
women, wounded and dying cows, sheep, and swine, entangled in an
enormous mass, made it impossible to pass that way. Napoleon turned
his horse, and took the road to St. Peter's gate. Slowly, and with
perfect composure, he rode through Cloister and Burg Streets. Not a
muscle of his fane betrayed any uneasiness or embarrassment; it was
grave and inscrutable as usual.
When he arrived at the inner St. Peter's gate, he found the crowd
and confusion to be nearly as great as at that of Ranstadt; he did
not turn his horse, but said, in a loud voice, "Clear a passage!"
The generals and the mounted escort immediately rode forward, and,
unsheathing their swords and spurring their horses, galloped into
the midst of the crowd, driving back those who could flee, trampling
under foot those who did not fall back quick enough, and removing
the obstacles which obstructed their passage. In five minutes a way
was cleared for the emperor--the wounded lying on both sides, and a
few corpses in the middle of the street, showed how violently the
cortege had penetrated the obstructing mass. The emperor took no
notice of this; he was silent and indifferent, while his escort
attacked the crowd, and rode on as if nothing had occurred.
At length the city lay behind him; he had passed the bridge across
the Elster, and reached the mill of Lindenau, where he intended to
establish his headquarters. Constant and Roustan had already reached
the place with the emperor's carriages, and prepared a room for him.
Napoleon rapidly stepped into it, and, greeting Constant with a nod,
he said, "Only a little patience! In a week we shall be in Paris,
and there you shall all have plenty of repose! We shall leave our
beautiful France no more! Ah, how the Empress will rejoice, and how
charming it will be for me again to embrace the little King of
It was touching and mournful, indeed, to hear this man, usually so
cold and reserved, this general who had just lost a great battle,
speak of his return home and his child in so gentle and affectionate
a tone, and to see how his rigid features became animated under the
charm of his recollections, and how the faint glimmer of a mournful
smile stole upon his lips. But it soon disappeared, and, with a
sigh, the emperor drooped his head.
"Your majesty ought to try to sleep a little," said Constant, in an
"Yes, sleep!" exclaimed Napoleon. "To sleep is to forget!"
It was the first, the only complaint which he allowed to escape his
lips, and he seemed to regret it, for, while he threw himself on the
field-bed, he cast a gloomy glance on Constant, and, as if to prove
how easy it was for him to forget, he fell asleep in a few minutes.
From the neighboring city resounded the artillery, indicating the
final struggle of the French and the allies. The emperor's slumber
was not disturbed, for the roar of battle was too familiar to him.
Suddenly, however, there was a terrific explosion that shook the
earth; the windows of the room were shattered to pieces, and the bed
on which the emperor was reposing was pushed from the wall as if by
invisible arms. He sprang to his feet and glanced wonderingly
around. "What was that?" he inquired. "It was no discharge of
artillery, it was an explosion!" He quickly left the mill and
stepped out of the front door. There stood the generals, and looked
in evident anxiety toward Leipsic. Here and there bright flames were
bursting from the roofs of the houses; one-half of the city was
wrapped in clouds of smoke, so that it was impossible to distinguish
"An explosion has taken place there," said Napoleon, pointing to
At this moment several horsemen galloped rapidly toward the mill;
they were headed by the King of Naples in his uniform, decked with
glittering orders. A few paces from the emperor he stopped his horse
"Murat," shouted the emperor to him, "what has happened?"
"Sire," he said, "a terrible calamity has occurred. The bridge
across the Elster, the only remaining passage over the river, has
been blown up!"
"And our troops?" cried the emperor.
"Sire, the rear-guard, twenty thousand strong, are still on the
opposite bank, and unable to escape."
The emperor uttered a cry, half of pain, half of anger. "Ah," he
exclaimed, "this, then, is the way in which my orders are carried
out! My God! twenty thousand brave men are lost--hopelessly lost!"
He struck both his hands against his temples.
No one dared disturb him; his generals surrounded him, silent and
gloomy. Presently, some horsemen galloped up; at their head was a
general, hatless and in a dripping uniform.
"Sire, there comes Marshal Macdonald," exclaimed Murat.
Napoleon hastened forward to meet the marshal, who had just jumped
from his horse.
"You come out of the water, marshal?" inquired Napoleon, pointing to
his wet uniform.
"Yes, sire. By swimming my horse across, I have escaped to this side
of the river, and I come to inform your majesty that the troops
intrusted to me have perished through no fault of mine. Sire, they
were twenty thousand strong, and I come back alone. I come to lay my
life at the feet of your majesty."
"God be praised that you at least have been preserved," said the
emperor, offering his hand to Macdonald. "But you say the troops
have perished? Is, then, that impossible for the soldiers which was
possible for you? Cannot they swim across to this side of the
"Sire, my escape was almost miraculous. I owe it to my horse, who
carried me across in the agony of despair; I owe it to God, who,
perhaps, wished to preserve a faithful and devoted servant to your
majesty. But, by my side, no less faithful servants were carried
away, and, standing on the other bank, I saw their corpses drifting
"Who were they?" asked Napoleon, abruptly, and almost in a, harsh
"Sire, General Dumoustier was one; but he is not the victim most to
be lamented of this disastrous day."
"Who is it?" exclaimed the emperor, and, casting around a hasty,
anxious glance, he seemed to count his attendants to see who was
"Sire," said Macdonald, in a trembling voice, "Prince Joseph
Poniatowsky plunged with his horse into the river--"
"And he perished?" cried Napoleon.
"Yes, sire, he did not reach the opposite bank!"
The emperor buried his face in his hands, and groaned. He sat for
some time motionless. At length he removed his hands from his face,
which looked like marble, bloodless and cold.
"And my soldiers?" he inquired. "Did they endeavor to escape as
"Yes, sire! Thousands threw themselves into the river, but only a
few succeeded in escaping, while the others fell into the deep and
muddy channel; and those who were on the opposite bank were made
prisoners by the allies, who are now in possession of the city."
"Twenty thousand men lost!" sighed Napoleon, and he relapsed into
gloomy thought. Presently he raised his head again and cast a
flaming glance on Macdonald.
"Marshal," he said, "you will investigate this affair in the most
rigorous manner; you will give me the name of him who has dared to
disobey my orders. He is the murderer of twenty thousand men! He
deserves death, and I shall have no mercy on him!"
"Sire, he stands already before his Supreme Judge! It was the
corporal charged with applying the match as soon as our troops had
all passed. He thought he saw the enemy advancing upon the bridge,
and fired the train, throwing himself into the Elster. He is
"It is good for him," said Napoleon. "God will deal more leniently
with him than I should have done. To horse, gentlemen, to horse!" He
walked slowly and with bowed head to his horse, and murmured,
"Another Beresina! It costs me twenty thousand soldiers!"
The generals followed him, and as they saw him walking with bowed
head, they whispered to one another, "Look at him now, how he is
broken down! That was his very appearance when he returned from
Russia! He has no strength to bear up under misfortune!"
While the emperor and his suite slowly and mournfully took the road
to Mark Ranstadt, the allies made their entrance into Leipsic. At
the head of the procession rode the Emperor of Russia and the King
of Prussia; behind them followed their brilliant staff, and then
came the victorious troops, with colors flying and drums beating.
The cannon still thundered, but louder were the cheers and exultant
acclamations of the people, who crowded the streets by thousands, to
receive the sovereigns and the victorious army. The windows of the
houses were opened, and at them stood their inmates with joyful
faces, holding white handkerchiefs in their hands, with which they
waved their greetings. The friends--the long-yearned-for friends
were there, and they received them with tears, exultation, and
thanksgiving. Merry chimes rang from every steeple, and proclaimed
the resurrection of Germany. The sovereigns rode to the great
square; they halted in front of the very house of the King of
Saxony, but they turned no glance upward to the windows, behind the
closed blinds of which the unfortunate royal family were assembled.
The victors seemed to have forgotten them.
The two monarchs alighted, for now came from the other side the
crown prince of Sweden, Bernadotte, at the head of his guards, and
through the other street approached the commander-in-chief of the
allies, Prince Schwartzenberg. The Russian emperor and the Prussian
king advanced into the middle of the square, and Bernadotte and
Schwartzenberg arrived there simultaneously with them. Suddenly,
deafening cheers rent the air; they drew nearer, and amid these
acclamations Blucher, at the head of his staff, rode up. When he
perceived the monarchs, he stopped his horse and vaulted with
youthful agility from the saddle in order to meet them; but the
Emperor Alexander, anticipating him, was by his side. "God bless
you, heroic Blucher!" he exclaimed, affectionately embracing him,
"You have fulfilled your promise made at Breslau. You have become
the liberator of Germany. Your brave sword and your intrepid heart
have conquered. Come, I must conduct you to the King of Prussia!" He
took Blucher's arm, and, advancing with him, he said, "Sire, I bring
you here your hero, Blucher!"
"You bring me Field-Marshal Blucher!" said the king. "God bless you,
"Sire," exclaimed Blucher, "you apply to me an honorary title--"
"Which you deserve," interrupted the king. "Do not thank me, for, if
you do, for conferring a title on you, how shall I thank you, who
have given me by far greater honor? I know what I owe you, Blucher;
your energy, courage, determination, and ardor, have gained ns the
most glorious victories!"
"I have only done my duty, your majesty," said Blucher. "But I think
our work is not half done yet, your majesty; we are to-day in fact
only at the commencement of it. It is not enough for us to drive the
French from Leipsic; we must pursue them, and expel them from
Germany. For this purpose we must make haste. We have no time to
rest on our laurels and sing hymns--the main point is to pursue the
enemy--pursue him incessantly and effectually."
"Again, the hot-headed madcap, whose fiery spirit believes that
every thing is done too slowly," exclaimed the Emperor Alexander,
smiling. "Now I ask you, as the king asked you at Breslau, 'How old
are you?'--you who never need rest, like other poor mortals--myself,
for instance? I confess that, after all this excitement and these
long fatigues, I am longing for repose, and would not take it amiss
if war and pursuit were no longer thought of. But you are always
intent on going forward!"
"Sire," exclaimed the king, who in the mean time had conversed with
General Sacken, "I just learned that your troops have anticipated
me, and given Blucher a title that is far better than mine. At the
gate of Halle they cheered, and called him 'Marshal Forward!'" "Ah,
I should like to embrace my soldiers for this excellent word," cried
Alexander. "That is an honorary title, Blucher, which no prince can
confer, and which only your own merit and the gratitude of the
people can bestow. Yes, you are 'Marshal Forward,' and by that name
history will know you; and Germany will love, praise, and bless you.
You have earned this title by your deeds, and the soldiers have
conferred it upon you as a token of their appreciation. Now, the
soldiers are a part of the people, and the voice of the people is
the voice of God. Heaven bless you, 'Marshal Forward!'"
At this moment a procession was approaching from the other side of
the square, consisting of twenty-four young maidens dressed in
white. All held wreaths in their hands, while the three who headed
the procession carried them on silken cushions. They approached the
emperor, the king, and the crown prince of Sweden, and offered them
the wreaths. [Footnote: The emperor of Austria did not make his
entry with the other monarchs, but came only in the afternoon to
Leipsic, where he remained scarcely an hour. He then returned to
Rotha.--Beitzke, vol. ii.] The emperor took that presented to him,
and pressed it with a quick and graceful movement on Blucher's head.
"I represent the Muse of History," he said, "and crown 'Marshal
Forward' in a becoming manner."
"And I," said the crown prince of Sweden, handing his laurel-wreath
to Prince Schwartzenberg, "I present this to the commander-in-chief
of all our armies, and wish him joy of having achieved a victory
over which so many nations will rejoice, and which will render his
name illustrious now and forever."
"Ah," cried Schwartzenberg, "I have unfortunately been unable to do
much. I have only faithfully carried out my orders, and it is to
them, and to the brave troops, that we are indebted for the
victory," [Footnote: Prince Schwartzenberg's words.--Beitzke, ii.,
The king said nothing; holding his wreath, he looked at it gravely
and musingly. The presentations were over, and the princes prepared
to return to their quarters.
"I hope, sire, we shall all remain together to-day?" remarked
Alexander, turning toward the king.
"Pray excuse me, sire," said Frederick William, bowing, "I intend to
go to Berlin to-night, but I shall be back in a few days."
"But you, I suppose, will remain?" asked Alexander, turning toward
"I shall remain, your majesty," said the crown prince of Sweden,
with a polite smile. "My troops are in need of rest."
"Yes, his troops are always in need of rest," murmured Blucher to
himself; "I believe--"
Just then the Emperor Alexander turned toward him. "Well, field-
marshal, and you--you will stay, too, will you not? I pray you to be
my guest to-day."
"Sire, I regret that I cannot accept this gracious invitation," said
Blucher. "I cannot stay, and my troops, thank God! are not in need
of rest. I shall start immediately in pursuit of the enemy. It is
not enough for us to have gained a victory; we must also know how to
profit by it. I shall march this very evening, and take up my
quarters for the night at Skeuditz."
"Marshal Forward! always Marshal Forward!" exclaimed Alexander,
smiling.--"Come, sire, let us hasten to dinner; otherwise he will
not even permit us to dine, but compel us all to set out
immediately." He took the king's arm, and went with him to the
horses standing near. When he was about to vault into the saddle, he
turned toward one of his adjutants. "Ah," he said, "there is another
little matter which I almost forgot!--General Petrowitch, go up
there." He pointed to the house of the King of Saxony. "Inform the
king, in my name, that he is a prisoner. [Footnote: Beitzke, vol.
ii., p. 652] Have a guard of thirty men placed in front of the
On the same evening Blucher rode, by the side of Gneisenau and
attended by his staff, out of the gate of Leipsic, following his
troops already on the road to Skeuditz. "Well," said Blucher,
smoking his pipe, "we cannot deny that there has been an abundant
shower of orders and titles to-day, and that we have all been
thoroughly drenched. So I am a field-marshal now; the Emperor of
Austria has conferred on me the order of Maria Theresa; and the
Emperor of Russia has given me a splendid sword, which I will send
as a souvenir to my Amelia. And you, Gneisenau, I hope you have also
received your share?"
"Why, yes," said Gneisenau, "I have received titles from all the
three monarchs. You are right, there was all day a perfect shower of
them--orders and honors; and not a general, not a dignitary or
diplomatist has been forgotten. Count Metternich, you know, has been
raised by his sovereign to the rank of a prince, in acknowledgment
of his diplomatic services; and Prince Schwartzenberg, already
enjoying the highest Austrian honors, has received permission to add
the escutcheon of the Hapsburgs to his coat-of-arms."
"These two have been in the shower of honors, but very little in the
shower of balls," remarked Blucher, laconically. "I wonder what
rewards will be conferred on the crown prince of Sweden?"
"He has already received the highest Prussian, Austrian, and Russian
orders," replied Gneisenau, scornfully. "As stated before, no one
has been forgotten but ONE!"
"Who is it?" asked Blucher. "Who has been forgotten?"
"Field-marshal, one deserving the most honor--one that joyfully
sacrificed property, blood, and life, who did not demand any reward,
and did every thing for the sake of honor, and from love of country,
and for the princes."
"What!" cried Blucher, angrily. "The monarchs have forgotten to
reward such a one?"
"Yes, field-marshal, they have! This one is the people, the German
people!--the noble, enthusiastic people, who joyously and generously
shed their blood for the deliverance of the fatherland, whose
mothers and wives allowed their sons and husbands exultingly to
march into the field, and made themselves sisters of charity for the
wounded and sick; whose men and youths did not hesitate to leave
their houses, their families, their property, their business, but
readily took up arms to deliver the fatherland; whose aged men
became young, whose children transformed themselves into youths, to
participate in the holy struggle--all these, the great, noble German
people, have received no reward, and not even a promise!"
"But, Gneisenau, how strange you are!" said Blucher, drawing his
mustache through his fingers. "The monarchs have rewarded those whom
they were able to reward. How can they reward the people? What could
"They could bestow on them more liberty, more independence and
honor," said Gneisenau. "by giving them the constitution which the
King of Prussia promised to his people in his manifesto of the 17th
"Yes, that is true," said Blucher, thoughtfully. "Well, Stein is
present, and he will surely remind the king of what he ought to do.
He is a patriot and a true man!"
"Yes, but he is alone," said Gneisenau, mournfully. "His voice will
die away like that of the preacher in the desert. You will see,
field-marshal, these promises will soon be forgotten!"
"Well," exclaimed Blucher, "we shall see. For the time being let us
rejoice that we have fought the great battle of the nations, and
that Napoleon's doom is sealed now. It is all-important for us to
finish him quickly and without mercy. You know my battle-cry: 'He
must be dethroned!'--Oh, pipe-master! Another pipe, this one does
As Napoleon and Blucher left Leipsic on the 19th of October, King
Frederick William set out from the city for Berlin to rejoice with
his people, and to thank God for the victory. All Berlin received
the king with exultation, and the 20th of October was a day of
universal joy. Germany was free, and this conviction transported
every heart, and every one wished to greet the king. Thousands
surrounded the royal palace at Berlin all day, and whenever the king
appeared at the windows or on the balcony, they saluted him with
cheers and waving of hats and handkerchiefs. Multitudes thronged
toward the cathedral, to thank God for the glorious victory
vouchsafed to them. In every house were festivities in honor of the
great battle of the nations fought at Leipsic.
But during this universal exultation the king left Berlin, without
his suite, attended only by his old friend, General Kockeritz, and
rode to Charlottenburg. No notice was taken of the unpretending
equipage, drawn by two horses, destitute of escutcheons and
liveries, which drove out of the Brandenburg gate, and the king
reached Charlottenburg without being recognized. He did not,
however, enter the palace, but ordered Kockeritz to fetch the
castellan, that he might open the vault of the royal tomb; then,
wrapping his cloak closer about him, under which he seemed to
conceal something, he trod the dark path leading to the mausoleum.
He paced the gloomy avenue of cypress and pines with a slow step,
absorbed in deep reflection. Holy peace surrounded him--not a sound
of the people's joy reached him--naught disturbed the silence, save
some gentle breeze that rustled the foliage, and as a spirit-voice
greeted the king's return. The recollections of other days, with all
their troubles, came to him, and revived the painful emotions of the
past. He had suffered so much, and alone! And as he had been alone
in his affliction, he was now alone in his prosperity. No one was
with him at this holy hour to understand his heart, except her whose
spirit he believed to be always near him. Grief for the humiliation
of her country occasioned her death; joy and pride in the victory of
her country would, if possible, have reawakened her from the dead.
The king slowly walked toward the mausoleum. The door was open, and
he entered softly. He looked around to assure himself that he was
alone, and that no strange eyes desecrated this devout pilgrimage.
He took off his cloak, and that which he had borne under it was no
longer hidden. It was the laurel-wreath presented on the preceding
day at Leipsic. With this crown of victory in his hand he approached
the black sarcophagus in which reposed all that was mortal of
Louisa! Bending over it, he kissed the place beneath which her head
rested, and laid down the wreath. [Footnote: Eylert, "Characterzuge
aus dem Leben Friedrich Wilhelm III." vol. ii., p. 162.]
"Take it, Louisa," he murmured. "It belongs to you! Your spirit was
with us, and led us to victory. Oh, why did you leave me? Why are
you not with me in the days of prosperity as in the days of
adversity? I have seen your beautiful eyes shed many tears, but now
I cannot see them brighten with joy. I can hear no more your sweet
voice, your merry laughter! I am alone!" He leaned his hands on the
sarcophagus, and, pressing his head on the laurel-wreath, shed
abundant tears. After a long pause, he rose and suppressed his
grief. "Farewell, my Louisa," he said. "I know that you are with me,
and that your love accompanies me! Farewell!" Casting a parting
glance on his wife's tomb, the king left the sacred cell, and walked
slowly toward the palace through the shadowy and silent avenue of
HANNIBAL ANTE PORTAS
Two months had elapsed since the great battle of Leipsic, during
which, to Blucher's unbounded despair, much had been spoken, much
negotiated, many schemes devised, but nothing done. Owing to the
slowness of the allies, Napoleon had succeeded, aside from some
unfortunate engagements during the retreat, in safely returning with
the remnant of his army to France; and this dilatory system of the
allies seemed to be constantly adopted. The armies advanced slowly,
or not at all. For weeks the headquarters had been at Frankfort-on-
the-Main. There were the Emperor of Russia, the King of Prussia, the
crown prince of Sweden, and Prince Schwartzenberg as representative
of the Emperor of Austria, besides Metternich and Hardenberg, and
the whole army of diplomatists, who deemed it incumbent on them to
put an end with their pens to this war which the swords of the
generals had concluded by a victory. The peace party were
incessantly intent on gaining the allies at headquarters over to
their side, and the crown prince of Sweden and Prince Metternich
stood at their head. Bernadotte cautioned the allies against the
dangers in which an invasion of France would involve them;
Metternich deemed it more advisable for them to conclude an
advantageous peace with the angry lion Napoleon. Blucher kept
murmuringly away from the headquarters, and stayed with his staff at
Hochst, near his troops.
It was the 16th of December. The field-marshal was alone in his
room, and sat on the sofa, in his comfortable military cloak,
smoking his morning pipe. Before him lay a map of Germany, on which
he fixed his eyes, and across which he eagerly moved his fingers
from time to time, drawing lines here and there, and apparently
conceiving plans of operation. The door opened, and Pipe-Master
Hennemann walked in.--In full gala-uniform, holding both hands
behind him, he stood at the door, hoping that his field-marshal
would see and ask him what he wanted. But Blucher did not look up;
he was absorbed in studying his map. Christian Hennemann, therefore,
ventured to interrupt him. "Field-marshal," he said, in a low and
timid voice, "I--"
"Well, what do you want, Christian?" asked Blucher, lifting his eyes
from the map. "What is the matter? Why do you wear your gala-
uniform, and look as if you were about to go on parade? Have you
become a Catholic in this Catholic country, Christian, and are you
celebrating a saint's holiday?"
"Yes, field-marshal," said Christian, resolutely stepping forward,
"I am celebrating the holiday of my saint, and his name is Blucher!"
"He is a queer saint," cried Blucher, laughing. "But what does it
all mean, Christian?"
"It means, field-marshal, that this is your birthday, and that you
are seventy-one years old to-day."
"That is true," said Blucher to himself. "My birthday! I had given
strict orders not to celebrate it, and I had forgotten it myself!"
"But no one can prevent me from celebrating it, your excellency!"
exclaimed Christian. "That would be very pretty, if I could not
congratulate my 'Marshal Forward' on his birthday. Long live my
field-marshal! And may God spare him many years to us yet, that we
may catch Bonaparte at Paris; for, if 'Marshal Forward' does not do
it, no one will!"
"Yes, if they would only let me!" cried Blucher, striking with his
hand on the table; "but they will not! I am sitting here like a pug-
dog in a deal box, and Bonaparte stands outside; I can only bark--I
cannot bite him, for they will not let me out."
"They will have to, your excellency," said Hennemann, quickly, "and
before many pipes are smoked. But I would request your excellency to
be so kind as to smoke this pipe." He drew forth his right hand,
which he had held behind him, and produced a short pipe, neatly
adorned with a rose-colored ribbon terminating in a rosette with two
long ends. "Field-marshal," he said, "in return for all the favors
you have conferred on me, a poor boy, and for having made me, a
stupid peasant-lad, pipe-master of the famous Field-Marshal Blucher,
I take the liberty of presenting you with this short pipe." And
making a polite obeisance, he handed it to the general, who took it
smilingly, and was about to reply, but Christian added, in a louder
voice, "But your excellency must not think that this is a common
pipe. In the first place, it is not made of clay."
"No," said Blucher, contemplating it; "the small tube is made of
wood, and mounted with silver, sure enough; the bowl is carved out
of wood, too, and there is another bowl inside."
"But it is no common wood, your excellency," said Christian,
solemnly. "You remember that I requested a furlough immediately
after the battle of Leipsic, and said I would go home, see my dear
Mecklenburg again, and visit my brothers and sisters. Well, that was
not my principal object; there was another reason why I wanted to
go. I have never forgotten what my General Blucher said when I first
came to him, and what he told us of his mutting--that he still loved
her. Well, I thought it would gladden the field-marshal's heart to
have a little souvenir of his mother. And, therefore, I wended my
way to Rastow, where my dear field-marshal's mother is buried. I
went to her grave, said my prayers, and then cut off a branch from
the linden which stands on her grave. Like every other son of
Mecklenburg, you ought to have a souvenir of your mutting. Here it
is. The tube and the bowl of the pipe I carved out of the branch cut
from the linden, and, that you might know what it is, I cut these
letters in the wood. Read, sir."
"Sure enough, there are letters on it," cried Blucher. "They say
'Souvenir of Mutting!'"
"Yes, that it is," said Christian; "you know, with us, those who
love their mother call her as you did, and therefore I offer you
"Christian," said Blucher, in a tremulous voice, "that was well
done, and I can tell you that you give me great joy, and that I
shall not forget your kindness. This shall be my gala-pipe, and I
will smoke it on gala-days only, that is to say, when we go into
battle. I thank you a thousand times, Christian, my boy, and if my
dear mutting has not forgotten me, she will look down upon her boy
to-day, who is seventy-one years old, and it will gladden her to
know that he has now a memorial of her--and from her grave! You were
on her grave, then, Christian? How does it look?"
"It was decked with flowers, your excellency, and finches and larks
were chirping in the large linden overshadowing it. The old grave-
digger told me the linden had been planted on the day when Madame
von Blucher was buried, and it was quite a small twig at that time."
"Yes, that is the course of things," said Blucher, mournfully; "when
I saw my mother last, she was a handsome lady, and I was a boy of
sixteen. I have not felt that so many years have elapsed since then,
and I feel myself still as active as a lad. But they tell me I am
decrepit, and that there is but a step between me and the grave."
"Well, I should like to see the giant who could cross that step,"
cried Christian; "a hundred thousand French corpses and Bonaparte's
overturned throne lie in that step between you and the grave."
Blucher laughed. "You are a good boy, pipe-master, and in honor of
you I will smoke the new pipe to-day. Fill and light it; I will--who
knocks there?--Open the door, Christian."
"It is I, your excellency," said General Gneisenau, who entered the
room. "You must not refuse to see me. It is true, you have forbidden
any celebration, serenade, or congratulation; but you must not turn
me from your door; for you know that I love you like a son, and
therefore you must permit me to come and wish myself joy that Field-
Marshal Blucher still lives for the welfare of Germany."
Blucher kindly shook hands with him. "Would that you were right,
Gneisenau, and that I really lived for the welfare of Germany! But
the gentlemen at headquarters need me no longer. I am once more a
nuisance and a stumbling-block--I am, according to them, the old
madcap again--the rash hussar, just because I shout, 'We must
advance upon Paris!' while the trubsalsspritzen [Footnote: A
favorite expression of Blucher when he alluded to the timid
diplomatists who advised the allies to make peace with Napoleon.]
are croaking all the time, 'We must make peace! If we go to France,
we are lost!' Gneisenau, if this state of affairs goes on for any
length of time, this will be my last birthday, for I shall die of
anger. I know if we make peace, the blood shed has been in vain, and
our victories in vain; and in a few years, when he has recovered
from his losses, Bonaparte will commence the same game, and we shall
have to pass through the same series of disastrous events. But they
are destitute of courage. Bernadotte does not want us to hurt the
French, and the Emperor of Austria desires to spare his dear son-in-
law, and they are besieging our king and the Emperor Alexander in
such a vigorous manner, that they are at a loss what to do."
"And what should we be here for?" inquired Gneisenau, smiling. "What
would Field-Marshal Blucher be here for, if we do not march forward?
No, the gentlemen who are so desirous of making peace are greatly
mistaken if they believe that they are able to set at naught our
successes, and that it depends on their will only to make peace or
war. The wheel that is to crush Napoleon is in motion, and no human
hand can arrest it. Let the trubsalsspritzen, as your excellency
says, croak: public opinion in Germany and throughout Europe speaks
louder, and it clamors for war, and we shall have it. For this
reason your excellency ought not to despond, nor prevent us from
celebrating your birthday in a worthy manner. Your whole army longs
to present its congratulations to you, and the officers of York's
corps, who intended to give your excellency a ball to-night, and had
so confidently counted upon your consent that they had already made
all arrangements, are in despair because you did not accept their
invitation. General York himself is quite vexed at your refusal, and
thinks you decline because you do not wish to meet him."
"I do not care if he is vexed, old curmudgeon that he is!" cried
Blucher. "He must always have something to grumble at, and has often
enough said very hard things about me. Let him do so again, for
aught I care! I shall, nevertheless, not go to the ball. What should
I do there? Merry I cannot be, for my indignation almost stifles my
heart, and, instead of smiling on people, I would rather show them
my fist. Ah, Gneisenau, men are mean and contemptible, after all,
and those at headquarters are the most despicable! They want peace!
Do you comprehend that, Gneisenau--peace! now that we are on the
road to Paris, and only need make up our minds to destroy the power
of our enemy! Oh, it is enough to make a fellow swear! To the
gallows with all the trubsalsspritzen!--all the old women who are
wearing uniforms, and who, in place of cocked hats, should rather
put nightcaps on their heads!"
"Ah!" exclaimed Gneisenau, smiling, "should they do so, your
excellency would tear off their nightcaps, and forcibly put their
hats again on their heads. And as for the old women, Blucher, the
young hero, will in the end rout them all, and drive them from the
"Ah, Gneisenau, if I succeed in doing so, then I should be young
again, and live to see still many a birthday," sighed Blucher. "I
have conceived every thing so clearly and well--the whole plan of
the campaign was already settled in my mind! Come, Gneisenau, let me
show you all on the map, and then you will have to admit that
Napoleon would be annihilated if we could carry this plan into
execution. Come, look at the map!"
Gneisenau stood by the side of the field-marshal, and bent over the
map lying on the table.
"See," said Blucher, eagerly, "here is Paris, here is the Rhine, and
here are we; farther below--"
"But, your excellency," interrupted Gneisenau, surprised, "you have
a very old and poor map; it is impossible to base any strategic
plans on it."
"How so?" asked Blucher, in amazement.
"Because this map is certainly incorrect, your excellency; we have
entirely new and very accurate maps now, made from the latest
"Ah, what do I care for your surveys?" cried Blucher, impatiently.
"By your surveys, I suppose, you cannot displace the countries,
cities, and rivers? Paris remains where it is, the Rhine flows where
it has always flowed, and behind the Rhine lies Germany, where it
has always lain?"
"Yes, but you will not find on this map the towns, villages,
forests, rivers, and hills, which you will meet on your advance, and
which, if not taken into consideration, might prove formidable
"What do I care for the towns, villages, forests, rivers, and
hills?" replied Blucher: "I advance all the time, and that says
every thing. In the towns and villages I shall cause my troops to
take up their quarters; through the forests we shall cut a road if
there is none; we shall build bridges across the rivers, and run
over the tops of the mountains; if the field-pieces cannot be hauled
over them, we shall take them around the base. The most important
thing is, that we advance, and I am quite able to consider that on
my map here.--Now, then! here is Paris. Put your finger on Paris,
Gneisenau." The general obeyed, and pressed the tip of his
forefinger on the spot indicated. "And here," cried Blucher,
pressing his own finger on the map, "here are we, the Silesian army.
Between us lies the Rhine. Put your other finger on the Rhine,
Gneisenau." Gneisenau put his middle-finger on the black line
marking the Rhine. "Now put your little-finger down here, between
Mannheim and Kehl; there stands the army of Bohemia under Prince
Schwartzenberg; and up here, where I hold my thumb, in Holland, is
Bulow, with his corps. See, on this side, we have therefore
completely hemmed in France; and, on the other side, where the
Atlantic Ocean is--or is it no longer there on your new-fangled
"Yes, your excellency," exclaimed Gneisenau, laughing, "it is still
"Well, then, England posts her ships there; and in the south, on the
Pyrenees, stand the Spaniards, who have sworn to revenge themselves
on Bonaparte. Now we advance all at the same time into France.
Prince Schwartzenberg penetrates with his army through Switzerland;
Bulow marches through the Netherlands, after conquering them, and
joins my forces; and I cross the Rhine here in three large columns
with the Silesian army--the first column at Mannheim, the second at
Kaub, and the third--well, now I have no finger left to--"
"Here is mine, your excellency," said Gneisenau, raising the finger
marking the line of the Rhine.
But Blucher hastily pressed it down. "Do not remove that!" he cried;
"what is to become of my whole plan if that finger should desert its
position? Keep it there, then!--Well, here, where I hold my left
thumb, at Coblentz, the third column will cross the Rhine. On the
other bank we shall all unite, take Sarrebruck, advance by forced
marches upon Metz, and--"
"Your excellency," shouted the pipe-master, throwing open the door,
"a courier from the King of Prussia, from Frankfort-on-the-Main!"
"Let him come in!" cried Blucher, hastily throwing off his military
cloak, and putting on his uniform-coat. He had not yet quite done so
when the courier entered the room.
"What orders do you bring from my king and master?" inquired
Blucher, meeting the officer.
"Your excellency, his majesty King Frederick William III., and his
majesty the Emperor Alexander, request Field-Marshal Blucher to
repair immediately to Frankfort, where the monarchs have an
important communication to make to the field-marshal. They wish your
excellency to start forth-with, in order to reach Frankfort as soon
"Inform their majesties that I shall be there in two hours.--Well,
Gneisenau, what do you say now?" asked Blucher, when the courier
left the room.
"I say that the monarchs have at length discovered who alone can
give them efficient assistance and valuable advice, and that they
have, therefore, applied to Field-Marshal Blucher."
"And I tell you," shouted Blucher, in a thundering voice, "that the
monarchs send for me to inform me that we are to face about and go
home. If it were any thing else, they would have sent me word by an
officer; but, as it is, they are afraid lest I grow furious, and so
they intend to inform me in the mildest possible manner of their
decision, and wish to pat my cheeks tenderly while telling me of it.
But they mistake; I shall tell them the truth, as I would any one
else, and they shall see that it is all the same to me whether they
have a crown on their heads or a forage-cap; the truth must out, and
they shall hear it, as sure as my name is Blucher! But I must dress
for the occasion--it shall be a gala-day for me. With my orders on
my breast, and the emperor's sword of honor at my side, I will
appear before them and tell them the truth."
PASSAGE OF THE RHINE.
The Emperor Alexander and King Frederick William were in the king's
cabinet, awaiting Field-Marshal Blucher, for the courier had just
returned and reported that the field-marshal promised to be at
Frankfort within two hours.
"The two hours have just elapsed," said Alexander, glancing at the
clock, "and Blucher, who is known to be a very punctual man, will
undoubtedly soon be here. Ah, there is a carriage; it is he, no
"Yes, it is he," said the king, who had stepped to the window, and
was looking out. "He is alighting with the nimbleness of a youth, in
spite of his seventy-one years. He is really a hero!"
"And will your majesty be so kind as to enter into my jest? Will you
assist me in it, and confirm my words?"
"Certainly, sire; but I tell you, beforehand, our jest may render
the old firebrand very grave, and we may happen to get a scolding."
"That is just what I am longing for," replied the emperor, smiling.
"Old Blucher's scolding is wholesome, and invigorates the heart; it
is a new and vital air which his words breathe upon me. It is
flattering to be scolded for once like a common mortal."
"Well, if you desire that, sire," said the king, smiling, "Blucher
will certainly afford you this pleasure to-day."
The door opened; a footman entered and announced Field-Marshal
Blucher. The two monarchs met him. Both shook hands with him, and
bade him welcome with great cordiality. This, however, instead of
gladdening Blucher, filled him with distrust.
"They pat me, because they want to scratch me," said Blucher to
himself, "but they shall not fool me!" His features assumed a
defiant expression, and a dark cloud covered his brow.
"To-day is your birthday, field-marshal," said the king; "that is
the reason we have sent for you; we desired to congratulate you in
person. You have passed through a year of heroism, and the new one
cannot bring you nobler laurels than those you have already."
"Ah, your majesty, I believe it might after all," said Blucher,
quickly. "The laurels growing in France are the noblest of all; that
is why I should like to gather them."
"Ah! the Emperor Napoleon will not suffer it," said Alexander. "He
values them too highly, and it is not advisable for us to seek them,
for he is not the man to allow us to take what belongs to him."
"But he was the very man to take a great many things that did not
belong to him," cried Blucher, vehemently.
"That which did not belong to him we have taken again, and have
satisfied the ends of justice," said the king, gravely.
"No, we have not satisfied the ends of justice," cried Blucher. "It
is justice if we march to Paris--to take all from him whom your
majesties still call the Emperor Napoleon, but who, in my eyes, is
nothing but an infamous tyrant, presumptuous enough to put a crown
on his head, and ascend a throne to which he has no right whatever,
and who, moreover, has treated us Germans as though we were his
slaves. Ay, it is justice if we take from the robber of kingdoms,
the braggart winner of battles, all that he has appropriated, and
send him back to Corsica. That would be justice, your majesty; and
if it is not administered, it is a morbid generosity that prevents
it, and which is utterly out of place in regard to him."
The emperor cast a glance full of indescribable satisfaction on the
king, who responded to it with a gentle nod.
"My dear Blucher," said Alexander, kindly, "you have not yet
permitted me to wish you joy of your birthday. God bless you, my
dear field-marshal, and may this year bring us the peace and repose
which one so much needs after the exposures of campaign life, and
especially when he is seventy-one years old!"
"I do not know whether I am as old as that," said Blucher,
indignantly; "I know only that I am by no means desirous of repose,
but rather deem it a great misfortune just now."
The emperor seemed not to have heard him, but continued quietly:
"Yes, certainly, my dear field-marshal, you need retirement; at your
venerable age we should not subject ourselves to such prolonged
fatigues in the field."
"Besides, I am sure you wish peace, like the rest of us," said the
king, who saw that the veins on Blucher's forehead were swelling,
and who wished to forestall too violent a reply. "We have reflected
a long while how we might give you a pleasant surprise on your
birthday, but it was difficult for us. Yon have already all the
orders and honor we can bestow; you are blessed with riches, and we
have found it difficult to make you a present worthy of the respect
and love we entertain for you."
"But his majesty the king has resolved to give you something which
will gladden your noble heart. Field-marshal, we give you peace as a
birthday present! We have resolved, to make peace with Napoleon; and
to-day, on your birthday, the conditions, which, you know, have for
a long time past formed the subject of secret negotiations, are to
be signed. The Emperor Napoleon has declared his readiness to accept
them, and, therefore, there are no further obstacles to the
cessation of war."
"To-morrow our troops will set out for home," said the king. "The
requirements of honor and duty have been satisfied; the welfare and
prosperity of our subjects demand peace. You, my dear field-marshal,
have been selected to direct the retreat of the troops. Conformably
to the wishes of his majesty the Emperor Alexander, and his royal
highness the crown prince of Sweden, I appoint you commander-in-
chief of all the retreating troops. The generals will have strictly
to comply with your orders; and, just as Prince Schwartzenberg was
general-in-chief of the advance, you, field-marshal, are general-in-
chief of the retreat. Confiding in your energy, sagacity, and zeal,
we hope that you will conduct the retreat, satisfactorily, and the
men will reach their homes as soon as possible. You are now,
therefore, commander-in-chief; that is your birthday gift, and we
hope you will be content with it."
"No," cried Blucher, drawing a deep breath, and unable longer to
restrain his anger, "I am not content with it--not at all; and I
must say that I do not wish this appointment, which seems to me a
disgrace. General-in-chief of the retreating armies! I should like
to ask his majesty the Emperor of Russia why his soldiers have given
me the honorary title of 'Marshal Forward,' if I am now to be
'General-in-chief Backward?' If your majesty has given me the
golden-sheathed sword only for the purpose of wearing it on parade,
I do not want it. Sire, here it is; I lay it down at your feet with
due respect. Your majesty, you desired to give it to the general-in-
chief of the retreating troops, and that I am not, and cannot be!"
He hastily unbuckled his sword, and laid it on the table beside the
"And why can you not?" asked Alexander, composedly.
"Because I cannot disgrace my honest name by doing dishonest
things," cried Blucher, vehemently.
"Blucher, you forget yourself," said the king, almost sternly; "your
words are too strong."
"Yes, your majesty, I know that they are strong," exclaimed Blucher;
"but the truth is strong, too; I must relieve myself of it; I can no
longer keep it back, and, the truth is, that it would be a shame and
a stupidity if we retreat without reconquering, on the left bank of
the Rhine, that which we were obliged to cede to France. Your
majesties have said that the requirements of honor and justice are
satisfied. Permit me to reply that this is not so, and cannot be, if
we retreat; for we show that we are still distrusting our own power,
and, notwithstanding our superior army, deem ourselves too weak to
attack the man who has been attacking us for nearly twenty years,
and to whom nothing was sacred, whether treaties, or rights of
property, or nationality. No, the requirements of justice are not
satisfied if we face about now and consider the frontiers of France
more sacred than the French have ever considered the frontiers of
Germany. Bonaparte has as yet Holland, a piece of Germany, and
Italy, and he says he will not yield a single village which he has
conquered, though the enemy stand on the heights of Paris. It would
but be right for us to march to that city, and compel him to
disgorge, not merely a village, but all that he has taken. And if
this be not done, if the peace-croakers attain their object, a cry
of disappointment and anger will burst forth throughout Europe, and
the nations, lifting their hands to God, will curse the
pussillanimity and weakness of their princes. They would be
justified in doing so; for it was not for this that brave men, at
the first call of their king, left their families; it was not for
this that they sacrificed their property on the altar of the
fatherland. The women did not become nurses and sisters of charity,
nor did their husbands and sons shed their blood, that only one
great battle might be gained over Bonaparte, and that he then might
be allowed leisurely to evacuate Germany. We did not even pursue
him, but marched slowly, while he safely wended his way to the
Rhine, And now he is to remain quietly in France! The world is to
receive no satisfaction, and the tyrant is not to be punished! If
that be right and just, well--no matter! I am an old soldier, and am
not versed in the tricks of diplomatists! Nor do I care to be versed
in them! They know how to manage matters so insidiously that at last
they convert wrong into right--falsehood into truth, and disguise
their cowardice in such a manner that it looks like wisdom. The only
thing I understand is, that I am no more of any use, and I request
your majesty to give me my discharge as a birthday present--be so
kind as to grant it immediately. I am much too young to become
General-in-chief Backward, and it is, therefore, better for me to
stand aside, and let others take the command of the retreating
troops. Your majesties will graciously pardon me if I take the
liberty of withdrawing." He bowed with respect and turned quickly
toward the door.
"But why in such haste?" asked the king. "Pray stay; I have not yet
granted your discharge."
"But your majesty, I know, will grant it, and I consider you have
already done so. I beg leave to withdraw."
"But stay!" exclaimed Alexander.
"Pardon me, your majesty, I must go!"
"Why? Tell us honestly the truth, field-marshal."
"Well," said Blucher, standing at the door, "if your majesty orders
me to tell the truth, I will do so. I must go, because I cannot
endure it here; I must find some place where I may give vent to my
rage, and, by a vast amount of swearing, relieve my heart."
"What!" cried Alexander, laughing. "Your heart is still oppressed?"
"Yes, your majesty, what I have said is as nothing," replied
Blucher, in a melancholy tone; "those words were only as a few rain-
drops; the whole violence of my anger, with its thunder, lightning,
hail, and storm, is still in my heart, and may God have mercy on him
on whom it will burst! Your majesties may see that it is high time
for me to withdraw."
"Otherwise, you think, the thunder-storm might burst here?" inquired
"I am afraid so, sire," replied Blucher, gravely.
"Perhaps it may be allayed, however," said Frederick William,
approaching Blucher. "You have determined, then, not to accept the
position offered you?"
"I demand at once my discharge, your majesty; my discharge!"
"You do not wish to be commander-in-chief of the retreating troops?"
"My name is 'Marshal Forward!'" said Blucher, proudly.
"And it is your firm belief, field-marshal," asked the king, "that
it would be neither just nor honorable for the allies now to make
peace and go home?"
"Your majesty, it is--it is my earnest conviction, and I shall never
be able to change it."
"Well, then," said Alexander turning toward the king, "is not your
majesty, too, of the opinion that it would be advantageous for us to
allow ourselves to be directed by the views and convictions of so
brave and experienced a general? Do you not believe that we owe it
to him, in consideration of the distinguished services which he has
performed, to believe him, the brave soldier, rather than the tricky
"I have no doubt of it," said the king, smiling, "and I confess that
all that the field-marshal has told us has greatly modified my
views, and induced me to adopt another course. If Blucher insists
that, in order to satisfy the requirements of honor and justice, we
should not now make peace, I believe him."
"And if he has insurmountable objections to being called Marshal
Backward," exclaimed the emperor, merrily, "well, then, he must
retain the name my soldiers have given him."
"But, your majesty," cried Blucher, who listened with amazement,
"what means all this?"
"It means," said the king, putting his hand on Blucher's shoulder,
"it means that I cannot grant you the discharge which you have
requested, because I need your services more than ever."
"It means," said the emperor, putting his hand on Blucher's other
shoulder, "that Marshal Forward is the very man we need at this
juncture. For, in spite of all ministers, diplomatists, and peace-
croakers (I thank you for that word), we have determined to carry on
Back to Full Books