he had been much indebted to accident, and to the imbecillity of his oponents; he was incapable of compre#. the character of his new enemies, and therefore he hastily pronounced, that they were dragged on by that fatality which was fast precipitating his own ruin.—On the 24th of June he passed the Niemen, and entered the Russian territory, little expecting that he was soon to return as a fugitive from the wreck of a great army, on which he was destined to bring all the horrors that can be inflicted on suffering humanity. . . The plan of j. which the Russians had decided upon was well adapted to the circumstances of the country, and the character of the army and of the people.—A general battle was to be avoided, because the superior discipline and tactics of the enemy must, in such a conflict, have given him many advantages. His progress was, however, to be retarded by a bold resistance at all points where a stand could easily be made, without committing the armies in a general engagement. The country, so far as the invader might be enabled to penetrate, was to be laid waste; everything useful to an army was to be destroyed or removed; and a scene of desolation to be presented on all sides. Should the enemy, in such circumstances, dare to advance into the heart of the country, it must have been manifest that he could do so only after encountering numerous obstacles, and sustaining severe losses; and when he should reach the interior he would find himself weak and exhausted, his numbers diminished, and his supplies entirely cut off. Should he be mad enough to linger in the interior for any length of time, the approach of winter would seal his fate; he must be compelled to retreat from a scene of famine and devastation; his benumbed and exhausted le. gions would then fall an easy prey to

their pursuers.—-The execution of such a plan as this required, indeed, great forbearance and self-command on the part of the Russian army, the most entire devotion from the people, and extreme rashness on the part of the enemy; yet all these qualities were in the sequel manifested by the differ. ent parties, to a degree which surpassed even the most sanguine expectation. Had Buonaparte been more cautious in advancing, the struggle might have been protracted for another campaign; had the Russian army been as impetuous as it was intre. pid, the result of a general engagement might have deferred the hopes of Russia; and had the people hesitated about the unparalleled sacrifices which were required of them, the cause of European independence might have sought in vain the powerful aid of the Russian empire. How far the Russians should have advanced to meet their invaders, whether they should have approached the Niemen, or made their first stand in front of their entrenchments on the Dwina, has been the subject of some difference of opinion. There could be no reason, it would seem, for their advance to any point which they did not purpose for a season at least to defend; yet although they did approach the Niemen, they made no resistance to the passage of that river by the French, On the 25th of June, the day after Buonaparte had crossed the river, Ko0

nofell without resistance; and it is thus,

impossible to account for the advance of the Russians to the extremity of the empire, without supposing, that they originally intended to prepart for making a stand at this place; and that the rapidity of the enemy's move. ments rendered this impracticable. Had the Russian army at once taken a position in front of their strong and connected fortifications on the Dwina, they might have avoided the serious

error of a weak and extended line, and would have saved the necessity of a sudden retreat. The extension of their line seemed at first to have given the enemy very great advantages; he crossed the Niemen without resistance; penetrated to Wilna and Minsk, and indulged the hope, that by thus separating the divisions of the Russian army which were posted to the south of the line which connects these plaees, he might secure all the advantages of attacking his enemies in detail, to which he had on former occasions been so much indebted. But in this expectation, he was wholly disappointed; and if the Russian generals at first committed an error, they made ample compensation for it by the ability and skill of their subsequent move. ments. The Emperor Alexander was still at Wilna. Buonaparte, therefore, pushed on with great rapidity, and on the 28th of June, made himself master of the capital of Russian Poland.— What were his hopes and expectations at this moment it is not difficult to conjecture. It might seem a proud circumstance to him, that he had comPelled the Russian emperor to retire upon his approach ; and he might imagine, that his rapid entrance would create consternation, and frighten his enemies into submission. The love of arti. fiee, and the affectation of magnanimity, seduced him into declarations when he reached Wilna, which, in the issue, rendered his duplicity more apparent. He knew the enmity which the Poles entertained towards Russia, and he therefore counted on their aid in his invasion. Unfortunately for the character of the Poles he was not disappointed ; for in spite of his conspi. cuous want of good faith, and his frequent violations of it, even in the case of Poland, they were again seduced by his promises, that he would restore

their constitution and independence. Yet he scrupled not to make a réservation, in this act of pretended beneficence, of the interests of Austria, because she was now his ally in the Russian war; and he had not many months béfore offered to Russia herself to abandon Poland to its fate, if he had been allowed to keep possession of the duchy of Warsaw. The Poles must have been fully aware of all this, yet on the mere restoration of a nominal independence, they embarked with eagerness in the war against Russia, and cast their strength into the scale of a despot, who threatened to extinguish liberty throughout Europe. Their just hatred towards Russia can alone account for such infatuation ; but France herself has never inflicted, because it was impossible to inflict, greater evils, than those which Poland had already suffered from Russia. In what light soever these proceedings may be viewed, it is incontestable that the Poles yielded to the seductions of Buonaparte, who, upon entering Wilna, proclaimed the independence of Poland, assembled a diet, and bestowed on the Polish nation the shadow of liberty. The French armies, meanwhile, advanced; but instead of following the Russians to the Dwina, whither they had retired, they spread themselves out towards the south. They had two objects in view by this movement; to cut off the second corps of the Russian army under Prince Bagration, which was already separated from the first, and to turn the Russian entrenchments on the Dwina, which they wished to avoid storming.—The bulletins which Buonaparte was in the habit of issuing in the course of his campaigns, have been read with avidity throughout Europe; and never were they so interesting as they had. now become. But already they began to change their character; no victories were gained; no cannon or colours, and very few prisoners had been taken from the enemy, in the course of a long and eager pursuit. Already the Russian climate had begun its ravages upon his army; his horses perished in thousands; his artillery was buried in the mud; and the desolating system of Russian warfare even now intimated to him what he might expect in his future operations. So soon as the Emperor Alexander became acquainted with the nature of the movements made by the enemy, he issued orders to the different divisions of the Russian army, that they should re-unite at Drissa, where a strong trenched camp had been formed. The divisions of the army were at this time scattered over a wide extent of coun

try; the vast frontiers which they had

to defend, and the uncertainty of the point to which the enemy might direct his attack, had rendered this necessary. The whole Russian force was broken into two great divisions, one of which was called the first, the other the second army.—Before the evacuation of Wilna, the four divisions of the first army, which was commanded in chief by General Barclay de Tolly, were thus distributed:—The right of the first division, consisting of 30,000 men, commanded by Count Witgenstein, was posted betwixt Chawli and Vilkomie, considerably to the north of Wilna. The second division of 25,000 men, commanded by General Baggavoat, had evacuated Kowna on the approach of the enemy, and was now stationed at Schervintz, betwixt Vilkomie and Wilna. . The third and fourth divisions, consisting of upwards of 50,000 men, under Generals Schouvaloff and Touchkoff, stretched betwixt Nortcoki and Lida to the south of Wilna.—The second army consisting of 60,000 men, com


manded in chief by Prince Bagration, was partly stationed at Bialisock and Wilkowisk, a great way farther to the south. From this army General Dochtoroff's division had already been detached; and a part of it occupied Grodno.—A corps of observation of 25,000 men was left under General Tormozoff at Loutzk, and another of 20,000 under Generals Essen and Steingel, defended Riga. It is mani. fest from this disposition of the Rus. sians, that the occupation of Wilma by Buonaparte gave him a chance of separating the first and second Rus. sian armies. It was difficult to re-unite an army thus divided; but no sooner was the order for this junction made, than all the different corps were in motion. Wittgenstein advanced from Wilkomie on Breslaw ; the reserve of guards marched forward towards the Dwina; and it seemed that the communications had been—Ge. neral Dochtoroff was eagerly followed by the enemy, and had several affair; during his retreat with the corps of Soult, Borde, Nansouty, and Pajal, whom he continually repulsed—0m the 4th of July, he reached Brodno, secured his passage of the Dwina, and his junction with the main army. —On the 6th, the rear-guard of the right of the army, under Generals Korff and Kutusoff, was attacked near the Dwina by the troops of Murat, supported by a strong corps of flying artillery under General Montbrun. The enemy was received, however, with bravery, and quickly repulsed by the Cossacks of the guards, who took some prisoners, among whom was the Prince Hohenloe. Kirchberg, in the service of the King of Wirtemburg. The Russians then passed the rior without molestation, and destroyed” bridges; and on the 8th of July, the main body of the first army civio the projects of the emperor were then revealed; and there was not an instant to be lost in putting them into execution. The Russians are engaged in concentrating their forces at Drissa; they announced a determination there to await our approach, and give us battle. They now talk of fighting, after having abandoned, without a stroke, their Polish possessions. Perhaps they adopted that peaceful mode of evacuation as an act of justice, by way of making some restitution to a country which they had acquired neither by treaty nor by the right of conquest.” Well might the Russians have answered, “We abandoned Lithuania that we may re-possess ourselves of it with greater certainty at mo very distant period—that we may draw you into that snare on which you run so eagerly—that we may bring you into a position where the whole force of a great empire, which you have dared to invade, may overwhelm you without the power of escaping; and we have given you access to the Polish possessions, that you may there, in the face of all Europe, exhibit the last memorable scene of your perfidy.”— The Russians, unmoved by the threats or promises of the enemy, in the mean time followed their own plans with steadiness and success. The first army of the Russians was concentrated in the entrenched camp at Drissa, and the second was proceeding with desperate resolution to join it at some point in the rear. Till thisjunction was effected, it would have been imprudent to have risked a general battle even at Drissa, against the whole strength of the enemy, which was now directed towards that position.—It now seems to have been the intention of the enemy to attack the right of the main army, and to force the works on the Dwina. Marshal Oudinot, therefore, approached Dinabourg; and

[blocks in formation]

on the morning of the 18th, attacked the bridge where some works had been constructed. He was gallantly repul: sed by the Russians; and although the attack was renewed the o: day, the enemy was again driven bac

with so much vigour, that he was com: pelled to abandon his enterprise-Count Wittgenstein, who has borne so conspi, cuous a part in the events of the last two years, began about this time to distinguish himself. He observed that the enemy’s posts on the oppositebank of the river were negligently guarded; he instantly ordered a flying bridge to be constructed, and sent across the re. giment of Grodno, with a few squadrons of Cossacks, who executed his plans with such effect, that the enemy

was surprised, attacked, and driven

back with considerable loss. Sebastiani had the misfortune to command during this rencontre; and to save the reputation of the general and of his army, the numbers of the assailants were as usual prodigiously exaggera:

ted by the French bulletins.—The re

sult of these operations was, that the enemy abandoned altogether his pro: ject of forcing the Russian entrench: camp, and determined to push forward toVitepsk, on which Beauharnois, Davoust, and Mortier, were already mo: ving. The Russian left at the same time made a rapid movement on P; lotsk; and the commander-in-chi finally resolved to retire on Smolensko, where it was hoped that a junction might at last be formed with the * cond army. The Russians were aware that their

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsett »