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shals, however, it should be mentioned, that they did every thing which could be required of skill and constancy to animate and sustain the drooping spirits of the soldiers ; and by their good conduct, secured the retreat of their leader. But all their efforts soon proved unavailing; the progress of the Russians was marked on all sides by the confusion of their enemies, who were so completely overpowered, that they no longer retreated as an army, but dispersed in crowds to escape the immediate notice of their : pursuers–Never surely did more sigonal disasters overtake the army of a a civilized nation. Prince Kutusoff was no sooner apprised of the destruction of the bridge by which Buonaparte had crossed the Berezina, and the impediment thus thrown in the way of Count Wittgenstein, than he ordered new bridges to be erected for the passage of this gederal and his troops. His orders were promptly obeyed, and the count was soon in active co-operation with the ... right of the army of the Danube. ... Some parties were ordered to pass ra... pidly forward, even beyond Wilna ; to destroy the bridges as they advanced, and to intercept the French ruler before he should pass the Niemen; The army of Tchichagoff, supported ... by the Cossacks, advanced in É. pur\... suit; and the whole force of the Rus... sian empire was thus . in motion. ... --Those who do not reflect that, from o the time the French left Moscow, and for weeks before, they had been without any regular supply of food; that they had been exposed to fatigues al... most incredible; o to meet what they were even less able to sustain, the severity of a Russian winter, ... and assailed at all points by an enra... ged and merciless enemy, will o o #. credit to the account of their suforings, on any authority inferior, to . that of an eye-witness. Ne other
words than those of a spectator, indeed, could do any thing like justice to this dreadful scene; and as it has been described by a person who had this advantage, it may be proper to give the detailsinhis ownhardly exaggerated language.—“Though besieged with miseries,” saysoneofthe Russian pursuers in a letter to his friend at St Petersburgh, “ and assailed with all the fury of our cannon and ourbayonets, itiscertain that nearly 40,000 of our merciless invaders escaped to the nearest bank of the Beresina. But numbers of the fugitives, even in the moment in which they believed themselves safe, met their destruction; they plunged into gain the opposite shore, and met the death from which they fled in the cold bed of the river, in the direful flames which rolled along its surface. They who escaped the flood and the conflagration, were not more secure, for all nature seemed to fight against them; Heaven itself appeared to hurlits last bolt against these sacrilegious hordes, by increasing the cold to a degree, that was almost intolerable to the best defended; but to those who had no covering, it was suffering worse than the tortures of the rack. It was at this crisis, when nearly deprived of the power of moving, they abandoned their guns, baggage, and ammunition, and throwing themselves upon the drifting snow, called on the blast to end their miseries. Thenising in frantic despair, they ran howling among each other, exclaiming .# against their betrayer, and demarding death at the hands of their equally #: companions. Thousands of these poor wretches were nearly naked; few had either a shoe, or boot, or pantaloon, to protect their freezing limbs. Many had endeavoured to shield them from the severity of the weather, by wrapping about them the raw hides they had stripped from the perished horses. Others covered their bodies with old matting, canvas, women’s clothes, priests' vestments, or any other thing that might assist in sheltering their emaciated persons from the piercing wind, and a frost that seemed to cut into their souls, Happy was he who had been so lucky as to have purloined from the countryman his winter sheepskin, or saved a pelisse from the general pillage. Officers and men were in the same condition. The wretched fragments which decency would still wrap round them, were tattered into a hundred shreds, but from the incle‘mency of the season there was no shelter. Thousands became benumbed and stupified; many dropped in silence into the grasp of death; others moved on their gradually freezing bodies, bewailing their fate, and cursing the name of him who had brought them into such depths of unimaginable suffering. Every corps and every rarkof officers partook of the general distress. The guards even, the proud favourites of their proud chief, were alike the sport of the angry elements; were alike exposed to nakedness and privation. Their gay caparisons were changed intb loathsome rags; and, a prey to every evil of squalid wretchedness, to hunger, and to cold, they Gropped down dead in heaps, groaning out the reproaches their tongues were too feeble to utter. Defence was now totaly out of the question. Flight, not escape, was their object; for none possessed within himself sufficient strength to preserve him in existence for many hours. It was not life they sought, but relief from the agonics of fear. An undefinable terror struck the soul of the famished wretch, who, stretched on the chilling snow, called fervently on death to release him from his misery. Even in this state let out the cry of the Cossacks be sounded in his ear, and it would be sufficient to rouse him to temporary energy; a thousand would
jartake his agony, and suddenly spread. #. in i. wo darken the snow with their flying sha. dows, and fill the air with their de. spairing shrieks. In this state some thousands would be made prisoners, by a horde of perhaps no more than a hun. dred Cossacks. The road along which this ruined army moved was rough with their dead, who, heaped on each other, shewed through the uneven surface of the snow their grisly and dis. figured visages, their perishing and dismembered bodies, and all the horrid variety of deaths inflicted by want and pain and the sword. Every bivouac, at the dawn of morning, resembledra: ther the place of a sanguinary conflict than that of rest Cold and fatigue benumbed many into their last repose; but scarcely did the hand of death close their eyes before they were des. poiled; nay, even while breathing, their companions seiz, d on their expiring bodies, and stripped them of their ragged coverings to defend themselves, —Vast are the circles of the dead they leave behind them in their dismal night watches, and when they proceed in the morning, there is nothing before them but a similar fate; and, desperate with cold, they set every house and town on fire in their way, in order to alle. viate with the heat the pangs which rack their joints. But the expedient is fraught with new sufferings. Hundreds hasten to the blazing scene to enjoy a few minutes warmth, but not having strength to retire with sufficient speed from the influence of the flames when they become outrageous, they fall a prey to their fury, and the ruins of the burning houses are sur. rounded with the expiring remains of their helpless consumers. Many of those who escape immediate destruction from the fire, seared by its flames, blackened in part by the smoke, otherwise pale as the snow itself, . themselves like a horde of ghastly
spectres upon the lifeless bodies of i. countrymen, and there remain in motionless apathy, till the benumbing hand of death stretches by degrees over their vitals, and they fall amid the icy and scorched corpses of their comrades. Numbers having their feet frozen and half-mortified, were reduced to a situation of complete helplessness, and being left upon the road, were forced to abandon themselves to the death they might otherwise have averted for some time. In these days, now so cruelly cut off from their existence, some succours might arrive 1 The idea alone seemed to speak a hope of which they were for ever to be deprived; and their despair broke out in cries of the bitterest anguish ; it was a lamentation that paralized the hearer, and made him feel the unparalleled depth of misery into which the French ruler had plunged his too confident followers. Multitudes of these desolate fugitives lost their spirits; others were seized with frenzy, and maddened by the extremes of pain and hunger. But I will not attempt a further enumeration of the varieties of human misery I have seen; those only who have witnessed such extreme of distress can form any idea of the horrors I have left yet untold—of the hideous spectacles exhibited between the Berezina and the Niemen, whose parallel for misery is not to be found in the annals of the world.”—Such descriptions as these might seem fanciful, were they not confirmed by the authentic history of this campaign; by the fact, as striking as it is unquestionable, that, in the course of a very few months, betwixt three and four hundred thousand men
known to the world; he had before abandoned his soldiers, and he now formally appointed Murat to the command of the armies—On the 7th he reached Wilna, accompanied by Caulaincourt, who was worthy of the honour now.' conferred on him.—The Russians did not relax the pursuit. Platoff, at the village of Orchmiani, fell in with a small reinforcement advancing under Loison, and cut it to pieces. Tchaplitz, after destroying what was still called the rear-guard of the French armies, in the neighbourhood of Wilna, on the 10th attacked and carried the suburbs of that city; and on the following day entered it, at the very moment when the French were retiring. The enemy had no leisure to destroy any thing, and his whole stores and ammunition fell into the hands of the Russians.—Strong detachments of Cossacks and light troops were spread along the shores of the Niemen, to prevent the escape of Macdonald, and to ensure the destruction of his army.—On the 11th December, Tchichagoff addressed a report to the Emperor Alexander from the neighbourhood of Wilna, in which he estitimated the loss of the enemy from the date of his passing the Beresina downwards, at no less than 30,000 men.— On the 12th, the head-quarters of Prince Kutusoff were established in the capital of Russian Poland. Such was the issue of this eventful campaign, in which a greater number of sanguinary battles were fought than had ever been before crowded together within so short a space. Never surely was enterprise more disastrous than that of the French tyrant against Russia; never were persevering virtue and patriotism crowned with so signal a triumph, as upon this memorable occasion. Of an army consisting of more than 400,000 men, finely appointed, and commanded by the most distinguished captains of the age, not more than 50,000, including the Austrian auxiliaries, ever re-crossed the Russian frontiers; while the revenge of an insulted people was gratified to the utmost by the unparalleled sufferings of their ruthless foes.
Such was the awful retribution by which it pleased Heaven to chastise a cruel and profligate ambition, that dared to meditate the slavery of the hunaan race.