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Frederick William now adopted the course which might have changed the issue of the campaign, had he adopted it a few months before; he withdrew with a few thousand men to Königsberg, at the northeastern extremity of Prussia ; and, having thus placed a considerable distance between his terrible foe and himself, he awaited the approach of his Russian allies, already advancing in large numbers beyond the Niemen into the plains of Poland. Though even now separated by a great interval from the Rhine and the frontiers of his empire, and conscious of the immense difficulty of conducting war in that remote region, Napoleon did not hesitate to pursue, and within three weeks after the battle of Jena, he had given orders that the Grand Army should cross the Oder and prepare itself for a general movement to attain the Vistula. In the first days of November, 1806, the three corps of Davoust, Lannes, and Augereau, the advanced guard of the invading host, were, with Murat and his cavalry at their head, in full march through the vast lowlands which unite Brandenburg and Prussian Poland, and Soult, Ney, and Bernadotte, in second line, were ere long following in the same direction. By the beginning of December the Grand Army, not less than 140,000 strong, had taken possession of the line of the Vistula from Bromberg and Thorn to below Warsaw; and the presence of its chief seemed alone wanting to launch it upon some daring enterprise, and to assail its enemies beyond the river. But the difficulties of distance, of his situation, and of a winter campaign in these far countries, already retarded Napoleon's movements; and, before he could venture to pass the Vistula, time was required for the great preparations needed for the warfare he had undertaken. New levies were raised and moved from France to guard the communications of the Grand Army, to keep down vanquished but indig. nant Prussia, and to occupy her numerous captured fortresses. It had become necessary to observe Austria, jealous of the French on her Polish frontier, and eager to attack though afraid to strike; and a new corps had been formed for this purpose, and also in order to reduce the Prussian strongholds on the Upper Oder. Above all, the formidable problem of maintaining a great army in an inhospitable region, with scanty resources, far from its base, and in winter, was to be encountered and solved ; and an immense system of depôts and transports, of supplies, conveyances, remounts, and recruits, had to be organized upon a scale unknown in the Emperor's previous campaigns. In a word, under existing conditions, Napoleon was forced to make war more methodically than he had ever done before; and, like a great commander, he applied himself to cope with the arduous task before him, although probably he did not anticipate all the obstacles and dangers that lay in his way. The mere inauguration of these numerous arrangements delayed Napoleon for a considerable time, and made his movements appear slower than they had been on
former occasions, and it was not until the third week of December that he arrived at the ancient capital of Poland, and took the command of the Grand Army.
Before Napoleon had reached Warsaw the agitation of Poland had suggested to him the important question whether he should restore its independence to that ill-fated country, and efface the crime of the famous Partition. However fickle they may have been, the Poles were the ardent friends of France; and a liberated Poland would doubtless have been a faithful ally of the new Empire. But on this, as on other occasions, Napoleon showed his characteristic distrust and contempt of a national movement; he sacrificed the Poles to dynastic objects; and though he enrolled Poles in his army by thousands, he refused to emancipate the nation, and placed his whole reliance in his own forces. His army, nearly 150,000 strong, with the addition of the Imperial Guard, had by this time established itself securely on either side of the Vistula, and awaited only its chief's directions. On the extreme right, Davoust and his corps were stationed on the right bank of the Vistula, and had taken a position near to Okunin, at the point where the Ukra, the Bug, and the Narew flow together into the great stream of Poland. Lannes and Murat occupied Warsaw and Praga and extended to Modlin along the Vistula, coming there into communication with Augereau, whose corps held the country on both banks as far as Plock and the adjoining districts. Soult, forming the centre of the warlike host, lay with his corps around Wroclawieck, his advanced posts stretching towards the Ukra; while, on the left, Bernadotte and Ney, with a mass of cavalry under Bessières, were encamped near Thorn, extending forwards along the Drementz towards Bienzun. The whole Grand Army thus held the line of the Vistula from Warsaw to Thorn, with its foremost divisions east of the river, and it could manoeuvre on either bank, bridge heads to facilitate and defend the passage having been constructed at a variety of places. In this state of things, Napoleon made his dispositions without delay, and his plan was admirable and characteristic of him. • After a feeble attempt to dispute the line of the Vistula, the Allies had fallen back behind the Ukra, and they were now ranged in a kind of semicircle between that river and the Narew eastward, their forces, too, being much scattered. On their left, Benningsen, with about 50,000 men, lay in the angle between the Ukra and the Narew; Buxhöwden, his colleague, with about 50,000 more men, being in the rear from Makow to Ostrolenka. Their right, composed of the Prussian corps of Lestocq, at most not more than 20,000 strong—this was all that, after extraordinary exertions, the vanquished Prussian monarch could collect-was upon the Ukra near Bienzun, stretching backward towards Soldau and Niedenburg, and it was only very weakly connected with the force of Benningsen lower down the river. A wide gap thus existed between Lestocq and Benningsen upon the Ukra, and Benningsen himself was at a considerable distance from Buxhöwden many miles behind; and as the bases of the Allies diverged, Lestocq resting upon Königsberg, and the Russians resting upon Groduo, it was to be expected that, if vigorously attacked, the Russians and Prussians would soon separate, and would be liable to be destroyed in detail. Napoleon, seizing this situation of affairs, resolved at once to attack Benningsen, and to interpose between him and Lestocq; and, having defeated the Russian commander, to cut him and Buxhöwden off, and falling upon their line of retreat, to expose them to some terrible disaster, and, perhaps, compel them to lay down their arms. For this
For this purpose, his right wing was to cross the Ukra and fall on Benningsen, while his left menaced and pressed Lestocq, his centre, however, being designed to execute the decisive movement; and, having separated Lestocq from Benningsen, to join with the right in closing upon the two main parts of the Russian army. The int operation bore a resemblance to the famous marches on Ulm and Jena; and it promised such great and brilliant results that Napoleon wrote that in all probability the campaign would be closed in a few days.
On the 23rd and 24th December the Grand Army was in full movement. Napoleon, with a part of the corps of Davoust, crossed the Ukra, and, after a sharp engagement, dislodged the Russian divisions encamped in the angle between that stream and the Narew. Lannes followed the Emperor, and, meantime, Soult and Augereau had traversed the distance that separated them from the Ukra higher up, and drew near each other at Plonsk and Sochozin, while Ney and Bernadotte bore upon Bienzun, throwing forward patrols towards Szrensk and Soldau. Large masses of cavalry preceded the movement, and spread over the whole front, to connect the different parts of the army, and to reconnoitre a country of which the difficulties and intricacies had been partly foreseen, but at every step became more apparent. The Allies fell back as the French advanced, Benningsen making for Nasielsk and Pultusk, and summoning Buxhöwden to his • aid, while Lestocq retreated towards Soldau and Mlawa; the object of these operations being to close the gaps which, it was seen, existed in the Russian and Prussian line, when the Russians had been driven from the Ukra. The Grand Army thundered in pursuit, the Emperor sparing no exertions to come up with the enemy while still separated, and pressing forward himself the march of the troops ; but it soon appeared that the rapid manoeuvres which had been attended with such great results in Italy and the plains of Germany, were impossible on the present theatre. The country between the Ukra and the Narew, into which Napoleon was now advancing, is traversed by innumerable streams; and at this time it formed an
immenso morass, crossed by hardly a single good road, and covered at places by vast forests which shut out the prospect and closed the horizon. The march of the French columns through these swampy wastes became necessarily much retarded; men, horses, carriages, guns, and trains, repeatedly sunk in a thick sea of mud; and as reconnoitring had become most difficult, the enemy's movements grew
slow and uncertain. The system, too, of living on the districts passed through, which, by dispensing with the use of magazines, had given such celerity to Napoleon's marches, had become impossible in these barren tracts; and the Grand Army found itself delayed by the want of supplies at every moment, and was clogged by a vast commissariat, which its chief, in part foreseeing what might occur, had providently taken care to prepare for it. Under the protection of these formidable obstacles, the Allies continued to make good their retreat; and, on the 26th, Benningsen's retiring troops had joined a part of Buxhöwden's forces near Pultusk upon the Narew, while other divisions of the Russians were at Golymin, at no great distance. Napoleon, who, in consequence of the extreme difficulty of reconnoitring, had been unable to ascertain the enemy's movements with anything like accuracy, despatched Lannes against Benningsen at Pultusk, while, with the corps of Davoust and Augereau, he marched to attack Golymin ; this distribution of his forces being quite erroneous, inasmuch as Lannes was very much too weak, while the Emperor was in unnecessary strength. Lannes, with not more than 20,000 men, assailed Benningsen, who had 40,000; and the result was a desperate battle, in which the Russians, if not victorious, at least successfully maintained their ground, and completely baffled the attempts of their foes. Meanwhile, after another encounter, the Russians escaped from Golymin, the difficulties of the country preventing pursuit; and, to the left, Lestocq, though hard pressed by Ney, had continued alike to elude his adversary. At the same time, the advance of the French centre had been retarded like that of the wings; and though Soult made for Ciechanow, in the hope of executing the decisive movement which was to close on the rear of the Russians, he was too late to effect his purpose. By the first days of January the Russian army had made good its way to the Narew, Lestocq holding a parallel line northwards; and Napoleon, afraid to advance further into a region of swamps and impervious woods, was compelled reluctantly to give up the pursuit, having failed in the great operation which, he had hoped, would give his enemies into his hand.
The operations we have briefly described deserve the attention of the military student. Napoleon's strategy was as able as ever ; his scheme of separating the allied armies, and of throwing his centre upon the Russian rear, so as to involve Benningsen in a catastrophe, was one of those fine and striking movements in which we trace the
hand of the master. The defensive measures of his opponents were not marked by firmness or skill; their dispositions were originally faulty, and they simply fell back before the Grand Army, avoiding merely the perilous mistake of rashly assuming a vain offensive ; and their general movements do not reveal precision, insight, or a settled purpose. Indeed, the mutual jealousies and discords which have so often marred the efforts of coalitions were not wanting in the Allied camp; Lestocq was not on good terms with Benningsen ; Buxbowden and Benningsen disliked each other; Kaminskoi, a veteran who had received the nominal command of the Russian army, went mad when Napoleon began his march, and left his colleagues to act for themselves; and these dissensions and divided counsels made themselves evident during the retreat. Nor can it be said that the French soldiery were deficient in their accustomed valour, though the rains and hardships of a Polish winter in some degree unnerved their energies ; nor were the Russians and Prussians different men from those whose martial courage and worth had proved fruitless at Jena and Austerlitz. The true reason why Napoleon's sword in this brief but interesting campaign seemed no longer a magical wand of victory, and his bold and brilliant manquyres failed, although he had a preponderance of force, is to be found in the nature of the theatre, and the altered conditions of the contest. In a country which formed a pathless morass, amidst forests that hid the enemy's movements, and thwarted and checked its own operations, and weighed down by impediments from which it had hitherto been largely free, the Grand Army was unable to march with the rapidity which had given it success, and its chief was more than once disconcerted, and even led to commit mistakes; the result being that an admirable plan was frustrated, and the Allies managed to escape the toils which their adversary tried to throw round them, without encountering serious defeat. It was then seen for the first time that Napoleon's system of daring invasions might be baffled by retreat and natural obstacles, and that when he was compelled to conduct a methodical warfare, the course of his triumphs might be arrested ; and the discovery was not lost on some minds in Europe, though for a while it appeared forgotten. After his indecisive march to the Narew, the Emperor put his army into cantonments upon a long line from that river to the sea, and made preparations to renew the contest, though he thought hostilities would cease until summer. The corps of Lannes, Davoust, and Augereau, on his right, filled the region between the Narew and the Vistula from Ostrolenka to Plock by Warsaw: Soult and Ney and his centre were stationed between the Ukra and the Drementz as far as Thorn, their outposts reaching Soldau and Strasburg, while, to the left, Bernadotte held the Lower Vistula, his extreme divisions touching the coast and Elbing. The