« PreviousContinue »
Cæsar, who never allowed an enemy time to recover when he had once accomplished his overthrow, instantly led his troops to the attack of the hos. tile camp, which they carried after a sharp resistance. It came not within his maxims of war to make a bridge for a retreating foe, but rather to crip. ple his retreat altogether. On, from the storming of the camp, he continued the pursuit without a moment's delay, notwithstanding the fatigue and exhaustion of his men, until having cut off the supply of water from a position in which the relics of Pompey's arıny endeavoured to maintain themselves, he forced them to an unconditional surrender. Above all other leaders, Cæsar and Napoleon were distinguished by the lightning-like rapidity with which they followed up success. The Duke of Wellington, although in many points fully equal to either, was never so remarkable for this particular quality. Caution, with him, tempered ar. dour, and he moved with more calculating nicety, lest he should expose himself to a counterstroke. Not from want of enterprise or active daring, but more from political impediments and the peculiar nature of his station, as a responsible commander instead of being an absolute sovereign. Lucan, who cannot be accused of partiality, describes Cæsar, after success, as “Nil actum reputans, si quid superesset agendum." He held the greatest advantages as nothing, if everything was not accomplished. Sir William Napier says
“The battle of Wellington was the stroke of a battering ram ; down went the wall in ruins. The battle of Napoleon was the swell and dash of a mighty wave, before which the barrier yielded, and the roaring flood poured onwards, covering all." — Hist. of Penins. War, vol. vi.
On entering the camp of Pompey, banqueting tables were found ready co. vered, sideboards loaded with gold and silver plate, costly hangings and furniture, tents adorned with branches of myrtle and ivy, and every preparation for a triumphal symposium. Whether the expectant victors intended to feast Cæsar and his captive generals, as President Madison proposed to honour
the British officers if he had beaten and taken them at Washington, neither general history nor private anecdote has yet discovered to posterity.*
At Pharsalia there fell on the side of Pompey 15,000 men, and 24,000 were made prisoners. There were also taken 180 standards and nine eagles. The army was, in fact, annihilated. Cæsar estimates his own loss at 200 private soldiers and 30 centurions, or captains of companies, all valiant and experienced officers. The disproportion seems incredible, but it frequently so happened in ancient warfare, where there was usually little mancuvring, and matters were decided by hand to hand fighting, which left no cover or retreat whenever the opposing lines gave way or turned their backs. Cæsar recruited his own legions from the ranks of his prisoners, and, in the generous clemency of his disposition, pardoned many persons of rank and consequence taken in arms, and openly combating for his overthrow. We have but few instances of similar lenity. Marcus Brutus was included in the number, and treated with especial kindness. As he did not appear immediately, Cæsar was very uneasy, apprehending he was slain; but when he presented himself without a wound, he expressed the utmost joy. Are we to consider this as an indication that there was truth in the Roman scandal, which hinted that Servilia, the mother of Brutus and sister of Cato, was less pure than a vestal, and that the subsequent ingratitude of her son ascend. ed into a crime of deeper enormity ? Cassius was also amongst the spared, but Cæsar ever gave him a cold shoulder, and looked on him with sus. picion, sometimes treating him with injustice, f and always holding him in dislike.
Pharsalia was undoubtedly one of the most decisive battles recorded in history. The event materially affected the destinies of men, and gave to Cæsar the absolute dominion of the world, which he was not long permitted to enjoy. His subsequent conquests, although obstinately disputed, were no longer doubtful, and merely swept off the relics of the great wreck in which
* On entering Washington, a sumptuous banquet was found already prepared at the President's palace, to which, in the absence of their host, the intruding visitors invited themselves.
† For an instance may be quoted the seizure of his lions at Megara, which Cassius had purchased to celebrate the games during his Ædileship. See Plut. in Vit. Marc, Brut.
the cause of his rival had irretrievably there was another very remarkable foundered. Dumourier, in the fulness point of coincidence. The victorious or rather the fulsomeness of adulation, general on both occasions announced to compared Albuera to Pharsalia, and bis troops before the action commenced placed the successful commander on the intention of the enemy, and the a level with the Roman Emperor. Re. precise movement by which that intensemblance there was, certainly, in the lion would be frustrated. We have seen advance of the six cohorts in the one that Caesar explained to bis reserved instance, and in that of the fourth di. cohorts the duty they bad to perform, vision in the other; as also in the result and the result ho anticipated. At achieved by the valour of both. But Austerlitz, Napoleon, having penetrat. at Pharsalia the maneuvre was pre ed the mistake by which the Russian meditated; at Albuera, accidental. general thought to outflank his right,
In the earlier battle, the general com and turn his position, issued a soulmanding foresaw and foretold the stirring proclamation to his columns, event. In the modern conflict, he was before he sent them headiong against rescued from almost certain defeat by the brave and numerous, but ill-comthe prompt intelligence of his subordi. manded enemy :nates and the hardy courage of his
"Soldiers !" said the French Emperor, soldiers.
"the Russian army bas presented itself beAs Pharsalia was the most skilful of
fore you, to avenge the disaster of the Aus. Cæsar's victories, won by strategy and trians at Ulm. The positions which we superior skill, against a general of repu occupy are formidable, and while they are tation almost equal to his own, and an marching to turn my right, they must present army outnumbering his by more than their own flank to your blows. I will myself two to one -- 50 was Austerlitz the direct all your battalions. I will keep mygreatest triumph of Napoleon's genius,
self at a distance from the fire, if, with your in which he scattered the stubborn Rus.
accustomed valour, you carry disorder and sian infantry, whose fathers had beaten
confusion into the ranks of the foe; but the great Frederic at Cunnersdorff, and
should victory appear for a moment uncerinany of whom had themselves fought
tain, you shall see your emperor expose
himself to the first stroke. For victory under Suvaroff, in bis immortal Ita.
must not be doubtful on this occasion, espelian campaign of 1799, and shared in
cially where the reputation of the French inthe glories of Trebbia, Parma, and fantry is at stake, which is so dear in inteNovi. In Pharsalia and Austerlitz rest to the honour of the whole nation."
BATTLE OF AUSTERLITZ. NO. 4.
CRISIS OF AUSTERLITZ ON 2ND DECEMBER, WHEN THE COLUMN OF SOULT BROKE THE
RUSSIAN CENTRE, AND CARRIED THE HEIGHTS OF PRATZEN. NO. 5.
More than one historian of repute has observed, that this is perhaps the first instance recorded in history, where a general openly announced io his soldiers the manoeuvre by which he expected they would prove victo. rious. These writers forgot Pbarsalia, and by a lapse of memory have detracted from the laurels of Cæsar. He was the original after whom Napoleon, in other cases than this, adopted an ingenious and well-timed copy.
Napoleon at Austerlitz found him. self in a situation very similar to that in which Cæsar was placed at Pharsalia. By crossing the Danube, and plunging into Moravia, he had lent his flank to the enemy, endangered his rear, and thrown himself into a hostile country, with insurrection spreading far and wide in every direction. So in Thessaly, Cæsar's retreat from Dyrrachi. um, had given him the air of a fugi tive, and began to make the surround ing nations mistrustful of his fortune. The great object of both leaders was to force an inmediate battle on their opponents, who equally fell into the snare, when delay would almost have proved equivalent to victory. Napo. poleon deceived his adversary by a
series of skilful manœuvres, calculated to impress the idea that he was weak, inclined to retire, and in a precarious posture. He carefully intrenched his left, by throwing up field-works, and held back his right in a semicircle, presenting a narrow front, which conceal. ed his dense columns and the power with which they were concentrated. The allies believed that he had scarcely 40,000 men, when he lay immediately before them, within two cannon-shots of their outposts, at the head of 90,000, ready in hand, and eager to strike whenever an opening presented itself. Acting under this fatal miscal. culation, the Russians extended their own left wing, leaving a large gap in the centre, with the purpose of turning the right of the French army, and taking them upon the flank and rear, so as to cut off their communications with Vienna, and drive them back on the mountains of Bohemia. The Russians commenced this dangerous movement at noon, on the 1st of December. Napoleon, with an eagle glance, foresaw the consequence. « Before tomorrow is over,” he exclaimed, “that army is my own. Soldiers ! we will finish the war with a clap of thunder."
The French delight to call the great battle which followed, “ The Day of the Tbree Emperors,” because three monarchs were actually present in the field. Napoleon, whose commanding genius directed everything ; Francis of Germany, who did nothing at all; and Alexander of Russia, then only in his twenty-eighth year, who now found himself, for the first time, under fire, and led his Imperial Guards to the charge, with the personal bravery of an experienced veteran. The AustroRussians were nominally commanded by Kutousoff, an old soldier accustomed to fight against the Turks, full of ig. norant prejudices, and worn out with long service. His present activity of mind and body were evidenced by his falling asleep at the council of war, which decided on the plan of operations. But the virtual direction of affairs was assumed by the Austrian Weyrother, who acted as quarter master general, in which capacity he had before done his worst at Rivoli and Hohenlinden, and had materially assisted in producing those lamentable defeats. Neither experience nor dis. aster had improved his tactics, or taught hiin a correct estimate of the adversary to whom he was opposed. Napoleon threw dust in his eyes by not displaying his entire forces in an extended line, and led him to commit one of the most dangerous experiments in war--a flank march in columns, in front of a concentrated enemy.
On the 1st of December (see plan, No. 4), the two armies faced each other as follows :—The first column of the Austro-Russians, under Doc toroff, extended considerably beyond the French right, as far as Aujezd. The second column, commanded by Langeron, occupied the important heights of Pratzen, directly before the French centre and apparent right wing. A competent general would have seen at once that this was the key of his position, to be carefully watched and strengthened throughout every fluctuation of the coming battle. The third column, under Prybyszwerki (a name difficult to write, and impossible to pronounce), occupied the most elevated portion of the heights. These three columns, commanded in chief by Buxhowden, formed the entire left wing, and were destined for the ill-judged movement which involved the whole army in ruin. The fourth column, under Kollowrath, stood on
another range of heights, in rear of the third. This portion of the allied forces consisted of Austrians and Rus. sian battalions, intermingled together. The cavalry, eighty-two squadrons, under Prince John of Lichtenstein, were formed on low ground, uniting the centre with the right wing, or fifth column, under Bagration. The reserve, under the Grand Duke Constan. tine, were posted in front of Austerlitz, and immediately behind the heights of Pratzen. The French were, probably, a little superior in actual numbers, but each army exceeded 80,000 men. The French, in condens ed masses, were posted in advance of the fortress of Brunn, midway between that town and Austerlitz. Napoleon had foretold that this would be the battle-field, and said to his generals and marshals some days before, “Study this ground, for we shall shortly have to contest it.” His right, under Da. voust, rested on the lakes Menitz and Satshchen, with strong reserves behind the Abbey of Raygern, thrown back out of sight of the enemy, and intended to lure him on by a semblance of weakness, when, in fact, there was strength adequate to any attack. The French left, under Lannes, extended to the Rosenitzberg, an elevated hill, intrenched and strengthened by artillery, and covered by an advanced patrol of horse. The front of the whole position was intersected by marshy grounds, through which passed the great road from Brunn to Olmutz. Opposite to the French centre, lay the heights of Pratzen, glittering with the enemy's masses, already in movement towards the left. The corps of Soult, in heavy columns, stood ready to rush into the gap at the critical moment. On the left of Soult, were placed in reserve the grenadiers of Oudinot, with the cavalry under Murat, and the Imperial Guard under Besseries, in a line behind them. The corps of Bernadotte was formed between the divisions of . Lannes and Oudinot. A slight glance at the plan will show the superior concentration of the French army, and the power with which they could verge in so many radiating lines towards any particular point. In the arrange. ments on their side, may be traced
the magic of one mighty mind," controlling and directing the energies of the whole ; in the camp of the allies, there was confusion arising from the multiplicity of ungifted counsellors;
but there was little wisdom, and nei. ther safety nor resource.
When daylight broke on the morning of the 2nd December, the error of the Russian general became apparent. The heights of Pratzen were no longer glittering with the arms of many thousand men. The three divisions of his left were already far advanced on their wild march, to circumvent the right flank of the enemy, leaving an interval in their own centre, of which Na poleon availed himself with the shock of a thunderbolt. The division of Soult attacked, with an impetuous charge which baffled all resistance, carried the heights, and maintained themselves in that central position, en tirely separating the enemy's columns, and rendering it impossible for them any longer to act in concert. At the same time, Bernadotte and Lannes, with the cavalry under Murat, engag. ed the Russian right, and gave them full employment, so that they could gain no opportunity of detaching suc. cours to the centre; while the Imperial Guards, under Bessieres, were brought up to the front, to sustain the left of Soult, and preserve the compact alignment of the French army, 'The allies had irretrievably lost the battle, and compromised their entire force from the moment when the advance of Soult was attended by such complete success. Even the single corps of Da. voust was found in strength enough to oppose effectually the three divisions by which it was miscalculated he would be cut off and surrounded. Everywhere the French Emperor opposed a superior force at the critical moment. Herein lies the distinction between lofty genius and simple mediocritythe pre-eminence of a master in his science over the pupils who are yet in their rudiments, and learning by dearly bought experience. The Russian Guards, led by the Emperor Alexander and his brother Constantine, fought with determined resolution, and did all that mere physical courage could effect, to atone for the mistakes by which they were sacrificed. It was no longer a struggle for victory, but a despairing effort to secure a retreat. This was at length effected with tremen dous loss. The result proved as deci. sive as the most sanguine anticipations of the French autocrat could have de sired ; and faithfully had his army redeemed their pledge, tendered on the eve of battle, that they would celebrate
the anniversary of his coronation in a manner worthy of its glory. The Emperor Francis sued for peace, and submitted to the harsh and humiliating terms proposed by bis conqueror. From a comparison of Austerlitz with Pharsalia, it will be seen that neither was a battle of any complicated manæuvres, but each was distinguished by one masterly stroke. In either case, the plan of attack adopted by the de. feated generals, was entirely overthrown, and utter ruin hurled back upon them with an overwhelming force, which swept down resistance, and has left to future ages two of the most memorable examples of military skill in the annals of ancient and modern warfare. In the disastrous conflict at Austerlitz, the allied army lost 40,000 men, 180 pieces of artillery, and forty-five standards or colours : 20,000 were killed and wounded, and 20,000 prisoners remained in the hands of the victors. Many battalions (as at Blenheim) were pushed into a lake which was slightly frozen over, and perished from the ice giving way. The French diminished their own loss to 2,500 men in all; but a comparison of authorities fixes 10,000 as the more probable estimate. These systematic falsifications of the Imperial bulletins distance all ordinary ideas even of romance. They invariably claim a victory under the most undoubted defeat; they did so at Leipsic and Waterloo, and announced Trafalgar as a rash encounter on the part of the English, who had lost their admiral and half their fleet. This reminds us of the practice of an agreeable old lady of our early acquaintance, an inveterate whist-player, who always marked two by honours and the odd trick, after every deal, no matter whether she had won or lost. On being remonstrated with, she said in elegant vernacular_“Sir, I always does it, and its your business to find me out if I am wrong." "To lie like a bulletin' passed into a proverbial expression with the French themselves : and as Napoleon is well known to have caused these authentic documents, in most instances, to be written from his own dictation, the credit they have acquired reflects back on their originator. From Austerlitz, Napoleon proceeded to the campaign of Jena, where he prostrated the armies of Prussia, and almost reduced that kingdom to a province. Too late in the field, taken in detail, and badly commanded, they