Page images

two were stationed in Fiuland; as the system meant to be pursued by Sweden was not at that time known : it follows, therefore, that the force which could have been brought to act against the French, nearly reached 300,000 men; but in Russia, besides the regular troops, there is a numerous militia ; and in case it might be deemed necessary to call them out for the defence of the empire, depôts were established in convenient places for the distribution of arms and stores, with which they were well provided. Such were the military preparations of Russia in 1811; and as subsequently to that period the probability of war increased, it is reasonable to infer that these preparations and means were augmented, and not diminished, when hostilities actually commenced.

Although France was determined on war with Russia, unless she complied implicitly with all her demands, it would seein that these demands were pressed forward with more urgency than the military preparations of Bonaparte could have supported; this circumstance will account for the length of time which he spent in negociating or attempting to negociate with Russia before he actually commenced hostilities, and for his apparent reluctance and backwardness, so unusual with him, in having recourseto force. In the year 1811, when the military preparations of Russia were so forward and formidable, the armies of France were comparatively weak : she had at this time 60,000 men in Germany, including the garrisons of Stettin, Custrin, and Glogaw; from the duchy of Warsaw she might have drawn about 50,000 men: the contingent of the confederation of the Rhine was 100,000 men : but, it was not able in 1811 to supply more than half that number; so that, on the largest computation, the army which Bona.

parte could then have brought against Russia would not have reached 200,000 men. In the course of the autumn and winter of 1811, and the spring of 1812, the French armies were greatly increased; the contingent of the confederation of the Rhine was augmented, so as nearly to amount to its stipulated number ; the king of Saxony was called upon to support Bonaparte in his war with Russia, on the ground that that power threatened the duchy of Warsaw. Even Murat (king of Naples,) inarched from the southern extremity of Europe, with his Italian troops, to assist in the great enterprise. It is not easy to ascertain the exact amount of the army, or more properly speaking, the armies, that Bonaparte in the spring of 1812 had collected on the frontiers of Russian Poland : they probably exceeded 300,000 men ; formidable as this number was, however, it was rendered much more so by its equipment, and by the condition of the forces of which it was com. posed. Every thing that could conduce, in the slightest or most remote degree, to the efficiency of the army, either in its march or in the field, was supplied in the greatest abundance ; the æconomy of it, if the expression may be allowed, was most perfect. Every thing appeared to be foreseen and provided for; and it may safely be asserted, that even in the most perfect times of modern warfare, no army had ever taken the field in a higher state of discipline or confidence ; better supplied with all kinds of ammunition, stores and provisions ; or led on by more consummate gene. rals. Bonaparte indeed seemed, by the immensity and perfection of his preparations, to have been aware of the arduous contest in which he was about to be engaged, and to have flattered himself that if he succeeded in it, all Europe would lie for ever prostrate at his feet.

The numerical strength of the armies of Russia and France was nearly equal; but in estimating the comparative advantages and disadvantages of two nations which are about to engage in war, many circumstances are to be taken into the account, besides the mere numerical strength of the armies. Some of these circumstances were in a high degree favorable to Russia ;—others, on the contrary, favored her opponent. The character of the Rassian soldiery is striking and singular : they have no fear of death; if death be the command of their superiors, their first anil proudest duty is to obey their officers; to obey them so implicitly as not to permit a thought of their own comfort, ease, or safety, to interfere with their obedience. They may be put into confusion, but it is almost impossible to drive them back: their discipline is perfect in its kind ; but, it is entirely a passive discipline, it manifests itself in repulsing with the cooleșt steadiness, the attacks of the enemy; in even standing to be cut to pieces ; but, it does not extend to complex or quick evolutions. From this character of the Russian soldiery, it is evident that they may be slaughtered on the field of battle, but if their officers are true and steady they will not easily be driven from it : and it is also evident, that they are better qualified for defensive than offensive war, and that if they are sufficiently numerous they must exhaust their enemy. With regard to their officers, they are very deficient in talents and skill; with notions and habits of obedience, not so strict and stubborn as those of the soldiers, they possess very little more civilization or knowledge. Hence it has been found necessary to place over the Russian soldiers a great number of German officers ; some of the native general officers, however, have made up for want of skill and talent, by a sort of original genius for war; and by adapting that genius so adroitly to the character and feelings of the soldiers, as to conduct them to victory with more certainty of success, than if they had been brought úp in the most perfect and regular school of war. With respect to organization, a Russian army is very incomplete, since this depends on that 'methodical state of society, and that minute and comprehensive knowledge to which Russia has not yet arrived : its commissariat, in particular, is in a miserable state, and must always impede and weaken its efficiency when in a foreign country. These defects in the Russian army, as has been observed, arise in a great measure from the semibarbarism in which that empire still is : they arise also partly from the circumstance, that her armies are necessarily composed of a great variety of nations differing from one another, not only in customs, feelings and temperament, but, also in the degree of their civilization and knowledge of war; and, therefore, requiring different modes of management ; and effectually preventing any comprehensive and regular plan. From this view of the character and constitution of a Russian army, we perceive the striking contrast they form to an army of Frenchmen: the latter are uncommonly quick in their manœuvres, not difficult to be repulsed when the assailants, or to be driven back and thrown into confusion when assailed ; but, recovering their order in a very short space of time, and with as much ease and precision as if it were review day, and not a day of battle before a superior or victorious enemy. Their discipline and obedience, so far as they go, are perhaps as nearly perfect as

those of the Russian soldiers ; but they do not extend so far : they interpose their own notions of what they ought to do, if circumstances change; whereas, in the opinion of a Russian soldier, circumstances have nothing to do with his orders : he will continue to obey them, even though his obedience is prejudicial to the army in which he serves ; and, in fact, contrary to the wishes and design of his officer. While a French soldier thinks he is marching to victory and glory, he will endure any privation; he will expose himself to any danger or fatigue, with unabated spirits and confidence : but, if he is to fight for safety, not for glory, his character changes. A Russian soldier, on the other hand, looks to nothing beyond the commands of his officer: whether those commands are issued for the purpose of offensive or defensive warfare ; under circumstances that pronounce success and glory, or only escape from destruction, they are obeyed with the same implicitness ; in short, a Russian is a good soldier, so far as a good soldier and a perfect machine are synonymous, and passive bravery is an essential quality in one ; whereas, a Frenchman is a good soldier, in so far as his character depends on the most perfect discipline, united with the love of glory, and the desire to render France the mistress of Europe.

This statement will explain some of the causes which prevented France in her former wars with Russia, from making less impression on that power than on the other powers of Europe :-but, there were other causes, which it will be proper to state, since they will enable us more fully to estimate and balance the advantages and disadvantages of the two nations in the war which we are about to narrate. Though, it cannot be denied, that the military successes of the French have been mainly

« PreviousContinue »