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1812 Through Fire and Ice with Napoleon: A French Officer's Memoir of the Campaign in Russia

1812 Through Fire and Ice with Napoleon: A French Officer's Memoir of the Campaign in Russia
Autor: Eugene Labaume
Data publikacji: 2000-09
ISBN: 9781874622758
Język: angielski
Wymiary: 24.2 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
Oprawa: twarda
Liczba stron: 208
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From Pt II Bk IX The Beresina
We quickly entered into Doubrowna. That town was in a better state of preservation than any through which we had passed in our journey from Moscow. It had a Polonese sub-prefect, and a commandant of the town. The inhabitants were principally Jews, who procured us a little flour, brandy, and metheglin. They also exchanged the paper money of the soldiers for cash. In fine, astonished at the confidence of these Israelites, and the honesty of our soldiers, who paid for every thing which they took, we thought plenty was about to revisit us, and that our misfortunes were near their close. Yet we were struggling under accumulated evils. ‘Bread! bread!’ was the incessant cry of the feeble remains of our once powerful army. The followers of the camp of every kind, greatly suffered : particularly the commissaries and store-keepers, who had been little more accustomed to privations. But none were more to he pitied than the physicians, and especially the surgeons, who, without hope of advancement, exposed themselves like the common soldiers, by dressing them on the field of battle. While we were at Doubrowna, I saw a young surgeon near a house which the soldiers surrounded in crowds, because it was reported that provisions were to be procured there. He was plunged in the profoundest grief, and with an eager and anxious countenance was violently endeavouring to force his way into the place. But when he was again and again driven back by the crowd, he exhibited the wildest despair. I ventured to inquire the cause. ‘Ah, captain!’ said he, ‘I am a lost man. For two days I have had no food, and ascertaining that they sold bread in this house, I gave the sentinel six franks to suffer me to enter. But while the bread was yet in the oven, the Jew would not promise to supply me, unless I gave him a louis in advance. I consented, but when I came back the sentinel was changed, and I was cruelly repulsed from the door. Ah, sir!’ continued he, ‘I am indeed, unfortunate; I have lost all the money that I had in the world, and unable to procure a morsel of bread, though I have not tasted any far more than a month.’

At that moment, Napoleon passed by in a close chariot filled with furs. He wore, likewise, a pelisse and bonnet of sable-skin, which prevented him from feeling the severity of the weather. On the day when we arrived at Doubrowna, he had marched a great part of the way on foot, and, during that march he could easily conceive himself to what a miserable state his army was reduced, and how much he had been deceived by the false reports which some generals had made, who, knowing how dangerous it was to confess the truth, did not dare to acquaint him with the real state of things, lest they should incur his displeasure. As he had often experienced the wonderful effects of his discourse on the soldiers, he once more mingled among them, and addressing himself angrily to the officers, and familiarly and jestingly to the soldiers, he endeavoured to inspire the one with fear, and the others with courage. But the time of enthusiasm was passed, when one word from him would have produced!

, miracles. His tyranny had oppressed and debased us, and stifling within us every generous feeling, had deprived him of the only means of reanimating our drooping spirits. Napoleon was most affected at seeing his old guard equally dispirited and despairing. Wounded to the very soul, he assembled a party of them before he quitted Doubrowna, and, placing himself in their centre, recommended the officer to maintain strict discipline, and reminded them that they had always been the pride of his army, and that to their bravery he had often been indebted for the most splendid victories. But sentiments like these were out of season, and the man, who destitute of virtue aspired to the character of a hero, now too plainly found, that the grandest projects were followed by no glory, when they had not some laudable object, and, when, their execution was beyond the scope of human ability. 

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