[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

N the 27th of February, a brig of war, followed by six light barks, stole cautiously over the Mediterranean. A profound stillness reigned on board, and the glitter of arms

flashed from every side. Four hundred soldiers, with weather-beaten faces, covered with scars, and of martial aspect, manned the brig; but, anxious and watchful, their eager eyes questioned every sail that appeared on the horizon. Suddenly, the brows of more than one of these heroes grew pale, as a ship of war hove in sight; and already the word “Elba,” and murmurs of return, passed, in whispers, from mouth to mouth. But in the midst of these, stood one man, apparently unmoved, towards whom all eyes were turned, and who rejected all suggestions of delay to the execution of his vast enterprise. He pointed towards France, and shouted—“Forward!” That man was Napoleon, who had, once more, committed himself to his fortunes. Then, as on his return from Egypt, but, this time, for his own misfortune and that of France, he escaped the enemy's cruizers; and, on the 1st of March, disembarked on the beach of Can



nes, near Antibes, with a thousand soldiers, and his three gallant generals, Bertrand, Drouet, and Cambronne.

This daring enterprise was characterized, by those about Louis XVIII., as an act of utter madness. The crowd of his courtiers were delighted, looking upon it as a mere abortive conspiracy,-a most fortunate event, the only effect of which would be to expose the secret designs of those whose places they coveted. It was proposed to organize a dictatorship, to raise the nation in mass, and to put an end to Bonaparte and the conspirators at once.

The king convoked the two chambers; the Comte d'Artois was commissioned to take charge of the military forces at Lyons, in conjunction with Marshal Macdonald; Ney accepted the command of the troops scattered throughout Franche Comté, and took an oath of fidelity to the king; the duc de Feltre replaced Soult as minister at war; and, finally, by a royal ordinance, Napoleon Bonaparte was declared a rebel and a traitor, and all Frenchmen were enjoined to seize upon him as such.

Napoleon, however, continued to advance, by forced marches, amongst a people subdued by the magic charm of his name, of the tricoloured flag which he bore, and of his eloquent proclamations. To the people, who crowded round him, he said—“Citizens, called to the throne by your choice, all which has been done without your assent is illegal. But your wishes shall be heard, and the national cause shall yet be triumphant. My return secures to you, once more, all the privileges which you have enjoyed for the last five and twenty years.” To the army he said :-"Soldiers, your voice has reached me in my exile, and I have come to you through every obstacle and every danger. Fling down the colours which the nation has proscribed, and around which have rallied all the enemies of France. lp, once more, with the tricoloured cockade, which you wore in all our great battles. The veterans of the armies of the Sambre and Meuse, of the Rhine, of Italy, of Egypt, and of the west, are humiliated; their honourable scars are sullied! Soldiers, place yourselves beneath the banners of your chief! victory shall march by your side, and the eagle shall fly, with the colours of the nation, from steeple to steeple, until it nestle upon the towers of Notre-Dame !"

The sole hope of Napoleon reposed on the affection and enthusiasm of the soldiery for his person: on their return to his standard depended the success of his vast enterprise. A first attempt, made on the garrison of Antibes, had failed; and, during several days, Bonaparte marched without meeting any forces, either friendly or hostile. At length, on the evening of the 7th of March, a battalion of seven hundred men presented themselves, at the defile of Vizille, near Grenoble, the road to which they cut off. The officer in command refused to parley, and threatened to fire on Napoleon's party. This was the decisive moment. Napoleon advanced, alone, and on foot, and approaching within hearing of the troops, he opened his riding-coat, and thus addressed them :“Soldiers, it is I! look upon me! If there be a man among you who would slay his emperor, behold him here! he comes with uncovered breast, to offer himself to your weapons!” All recoiled; admiration and enthusiasm took possession of their hearts; the cry of Vive l'Empereur! was a thousand times repeated; the two parties fraternized, hoisted the same standard, and marched together upon Grenoble. Shortly afterwards, Colonel Labédoyère appeared with his regiment, and joined Bonaparte,—to whom that unfortunate young man had vowed a sort of worship. Grenoble and Lyons opened their gates. In the latter city, the Comte d'Artois was abandoned, and quitted it, with a single horseman for his escort Every where, the soldiers responded to the appeal of their old general; the division of the army commanded by Ney yielded to the example, and Ney himself, won over by the sentiment of the hour, flung himself into the arms of his former general -his companion in arms. Then, for the first time, did Monsieur take the oath to the constitutional charter, in presence of the assembled chambers. In vain, however, did Marshal Mortier and the garrison of La Fère repress, in the east, a

[ocr errors]

revolt led by the Generals Lallemand and Lefèvre-Desnouettes; in vain did the duc d'Angoulême, in Languedoc, and Madame, at Bordeaux,—the city which had been the first to proclaim the Bourbons,—endeavour to rally the troops in the royal cause: Napoleon was, already, but a few marches distant from the Tuileries.

[graphic][merged small]

IE genius of Napoleon, once more raised, in a few days, a formidable army, from the soil of France. He reckoned three hundred thousand fighting men; of which number one hundred and ten thousand were directed against Bel

gium. On the 12th of June he, himself, set out for the army, with the design of fighting Wellington and Blucher,-each of whom had ninety thousand men under his command. His hope was to engage, and overthrow them separately, and then to make head against Austria and Russia. On the 16th, a bloody battle was fouhgt round the village of Ligny, on the plain of Fleurus; where the Prussians

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

were defeated, and lost twenty-two thousand men. The victor then advanced with only seventy thousand soldiers, to meet the English, Dutch, and Hanoverian forces, and came up with them at Waterloo. Grouchy, at the head of thirty-three thousand men, had orders to keep back the beaten troops of Blucher, and prevent their junction with the army of Wellington. The fight began on the 18th of June, at eleven o'clock in the morning; and the destinies of the world were staked upon that battle-field. For several hours the French maintained the advantage, and already the enemy had thoughts of retreating. About six o'clock, Napoleon ordered a formidable charge, and the English began to give way. The arrival of Grouchy or of Blucher, however, it was evident, must decide the victory. Suddenly, a numerous body of men were seen in the distance, on the right flank of the French army. On both sides, anxiety was, for a moment, at its height; but the confidence of Wellington was soon restored, and his victory assured,—for he had recognized the Prussians. Blucher had evaded Grouchy, and the struggle was decided. The rout of the French army was complete, and the carnage fearful. Two hundred pieces of cannon fell into the enemy's hands. But the honour of France, at least, remained unsullied, on that dreadful day. Summoned to lay down their arms, some mutilated battalions of the old guard replied by this heroic cry:-" The guard can die, but not surrender !" Bewildered and distracted, in the midst of this irremediable disaster, Napoleon presented his breast to the bullets which few around,—but could not die. For the second time, death seemed to shun him. Then, at length, despairing of his fortune, he abandoned the wreck of his army, and returned to Paris, to announce, in person, that all was lost.

Subsequent events induced Napoleon to commit the fatal error of trusting to the magnanimity of the British government. He presented himself, with his suite, on board the English ship Bellerophon: from whence he wrote to the prince regent, demanding permission to sit down, like an

« ForrigeFortsett »