« PředchozíPokračovat »
this important secret, the Duke could only learn it from others. Accordingly, in the beginning of June, 1815, he was not only ready, but exceedingly anxious to receive the intelligence whenever it would deign in any way whatever to come to him ; but he was the receiver, not the donor, and therefore, until the intelligence reached him, he could no more act upon it than a vessel becalmed under the Line can sail until the breeze approaching from the horizon has actually reached it. The Duke thirsted for the intelligence as the deserts of Africa after the dry season thirst for the rain, but until what he desired came to refresh him, it is perfectly evident he could not receive it. In short, the intelligence of Napoleon's movements could not reach the territory of the allied army until it had passed over a country under the arbitrary domination of Napoleon, and not under the authority of the Duke.
Now it may be, and it certainly is, very difficult indeed for any general to dam up every one of the many channels, large as well as small, by which intelligence flows and oozes from one country into another : but if, by the physical and moral power which Napoleon possessed in his own territory, he was enabled to do so, his opponent is no more to blame for not having received intelligence which did not flow, than he would have been to blame for his territory not having received irrigation from a river which his opponent had had the power to divert.
Napoleon, by sovereign authority wielded with admirable skill, prevented the intelligence of his movements from preceding his attack
upon the cantonments of the allies; and Mr. Alison therefore affirms that the Duke of Wellington was 'surprised:' and so
But why select the Duke of Wellington for blame? for he was no more surprised than were the Belgian peasantry of the allied frontier, all of whom, though residing on the point attacked, were equally guilty of not knowing that which was unknown to the Duke of Wellington at Brussels. But not only were the inhabitants of the territory of the allies kept in ignorance of Napoleon's projected attack, but the French peasantry, occupying the very ground from which the attack proceeded, were ignorant of it-nay, the privates, non-commissioned officers, and officers of the French army, and even the French generals, had not power to communicate Napoleon's project to the Duke of Wellington, or to the Prussian general Zieten.
At the period in question it is well known that, not only in France but in the ranks of the French army, there existed many Bourbonists who in their hearts were opposed to Napoleon, and who, though enlisted under his colours, were faithless to his
Instead, therefore, of risking their lives in fighting against their consciences, there must have been, and indeed there were,
mm who would tare deemed it a meritorijas dary, as well as a most lucrative specuzion, to have apprised the allies of the intended attack; but Napolera. who was well aware of this disabiection, so faithfully guarded his own secret, and was moreover w quick in his mirements, that he actually prevented every one of the among his own soldiers who would have betrayed him from doing so.
The writer of this Memorandum, who, as an officer of engineers, was surveying the heights of Charleroi the morning it was attacker, was himself a witness to a most remarkable exemplification of this fact. He happened to be close to General Zieten about mid-day on the 16th of June, 1515, when the French Adjutant-General, Bourmont, who had just deserted, brought over to the Prussian army Napoleon's orders for its attack at two o'clock. In making this communication to General Zieten, who was on horseback surrounded by all his staff, General Bourmont distinctly declared that he had all along intended to betray Napoleon, but that he had refrained from doing so until he could bring over to the allies intelligence of importance.
Now all the while he was speaking, the Prussian army could hear from the horizon a faint increasing sound of “eur'... 'pereur' ...'Empereur !'—the distant cheers of the French army advancing w attack them. The Adjutant-General Bourmont, while he was addressing General Zieten, must therefore have known perfectly well that at that hour the intelligence of the intended attack which without metaphor was speaking for itself, was of little or no value, whereas that had he apprised the allied army on, say even the 14th, that Napoleon intended to attack Charleroi the following day, the intelligence would have been of inestimable value. But General Bourmont deserted with all the information he could lay his hands on - his disposition to betray was evident—and he therefore brought with him the lesser intelligence only because he had not the means of carrying away the greater.
And if no one in Napoleon's army, from this adjutant-general down to the shortest drummer-boy, had power to desert to the allies with the valuable intelligence of Napoleon's advance upon Charleroi --if the French peasantry on the frontier, intermingled by marriage with those in Belgium, had either no previous knowledge of the event, or found themselves divested of all power of safely communicating it to their relations and friends residing in the territory of the allies—how could General Zieten and the Prussian army find it out, and above all, if they did not know it, by what miracle could the intelligence possibly have leaped over all their heads to the Duke of Wellington at Brussels? No such miracle, however, was performed, and accordingly the
English general did not hear of Napoleon's attack upon Charleroi until the intelligence by an ordinary, and not by a supernatural course, flowed to him. In short, the event was known at Charleroi before it was known at Brussels, just as every day in the year the sun rises at Liverpool before it rises at New York; and yet merely because Napoleon managed, so long only as he remained within his own territory, successfully to keep his own secret, Mr. Alison jumps to the conclusion that by the exercise of this undisputed power he ‘outmanæuvred' and out-generaled' his antagonist. Now surely before such high praise was awarded by an English historian to Napoleon for the quickness of his first movement, it should be recollected that it resulted in his complete defeat.
If, on the 15th of June, 1815, the Duke of Wellington had suddenly marched the Allied troops into France, and attacking the French army in its position, had completely routed it, whatever credit might have been claimed for the English General, it ought in common justice, and it would always have been urged in Napoleon's defence, that he had been attacked before he had had sufficient time to collect materials of defence; in short, that he had been overpowered, but not outgeneraled or 'outmanæuvred.' The case, however, was precisely reversed, for Napoleon was the projector of his own plan, or, in more common words, he himself with his own hands spun the hemp and twisted the yarns of the rope with which he hanged himself.
Although the disposition of his own army was veiled in darkness, the Duke of Wellington maintaining his position in broad daylight, the amount of the allied army as well as its organization were no secrets. Napoleon therefore knew exactly where the British, Hanoverian, Belgian, Dutch, Prussian contingents were respectively cantoned—as also the nature of the roads which separated them. He knew how the cavalry, infantry, and artillery of the allies were disposed, and how many hours it would require to assemble them at any given point. He knew also where were the head-quarters of his opponent. With all these data before him he secretly calculated that, by unexpectedly springing upon the Prussian army, he would be enabled to attack it, and the British forces, separately, before they could have time to combine. This important part of his project, as we have shown, completely succeeded. Napoleon's own plan was therefore carried into effect, errors excepted, according to his own wishes, and yet what we ask was the result of this game of chess of his own seeking? Why it was briefly as follows:
On the 15th of June the Emperor Napoleon made the first
On the 16th, the Duke of Wellington said .check' to him at Quatre-Bras.
On the 17th, the two players stood in sullen silence looking at the board before them.
And on the 18th, at sunset, the Duke check-mated his antagonist, who, deeming himself completely beaten, of his own accord gave up the game and decamped.
But was this all? No. Not only was Napoleon's army so completely routed at Waterloo that it could never for a moment rally—not only were its elements scattered to the winds never to meet again, but Napoleon, still constituting himself supreme judge of his own case-still prescribing for his own wounds-decided on abdicating his title of Emperor, on descending from the throne of France, and lastly, on proceeding to England in the Bellerophon to surrender himself to the sovereign of his antagonist.
The remainder of his life was passed in captivity in a British Island; he was buried in British soil, in which he remained for nineteen years, until the British Sovereign in the month of September, 1840, magnanimously restored his mouldered bones to the French nation, 120,000 of whose soldiers he had gallantly, but so unsuccessfully, led to the attack of the allied army on the 15th of June, 1815.
That his first movement on that day was rapid, and calculated to excite the enthusiasm of the French army, we most readily admit; but when the deadly results just detailed are simultaneously considered, it certainly appears strange that so able and eloquent a writer as Mr. Alison should, in his history of this eventful period, aver that he 'out-manouvred the English General !'
If a French dragoon, with considerable activity and grimace, were unexpectedly to present the but-end of his carbine at the breast of an English sentinel, and then pulling the trigger, were to blow his own brains out, would anybody in his senses say that this dragoon had out-manæuvred his red-coated enemy, merely because galloping 'ventre à terre' at him, his first movements had been quick ones? and yet such was precisely Napoleon's conduct.
If, instead of hurrying on an army of 120,000 men, newly assembled, unaccustomed to act together, unacquainted with their officers, and whom he had commanded in person only one day, to attack a cool and experienced antagonist, Napoleon had pursued a more cautious plan of defensive operations—if, for instance, he had thrown his troops into the line of frontier fortresses in his possession, and if, instead of risking all by a brilliant coup-demain, he had there patiently awaited the result of that moral, or,
to speak correctly, immoral, power within the Parliament of England, which, though feeble, was boldly and loudly protesting against the injustice of Europe interfering with the French people in re-appointing as their ruler the Demon of War-no doubt, if Buonaparte had taken such a course as this, a different result would have ensued. It might have been a good one--it might have been a bad one-nost certain it is, however, that no plan could possibly have ended more fatally for Napoleon's ambition than the one he had voluntarily adopted.
On the other hand, if the Duke of Wellington, instead of scientifically deploying his forces into an army of observation, had concentrated the British, Hanoverian, Belgian, Dutch, and Prussian troops into one Babel phalanx, such a plan would undoubtedly have produced a different result, which might have been a good one, or which might have been a bad one; most certain, however, it is that no plan could have more promptly annihilated Napoleon's power, and have founded on its ruins a more lasting peace, than the cool, cautious, but vigorous course of operations which, under the direction of Divine Providence, the English General pursued.
The Duke of Wellington had two distinct and opposite duties to perform : first, defensively to occupy a long line, guarding his communications with England as well as with cities, roads, and fortresses of great military importance; secondly, rapidly to concentrate this army of occupation upon whatever point of the line Napoleon might think proper to attack. It is evident, therefore, from the mere showing of the case, that until the Duke knew when and at what point of his line Napoleon's real attack was to be made, it was as impossible for him to prepare by concentration to resist it, as it would be impossible for a mathematician to draw for his sovereign the circumference of a circle until his majesty should have determined and made known to him where was to be the central point.
. On the 10th,' says Mr. Alison, the Duke of Wellington received intelligence, which PROVED TO BE PREMATURE, that the Emperor had arrived in Maubeuge on the preceding day; but, notwithstanding the proximity of such a man,
at the head of such a force, no steps were taken to concentrate the English and Prussian armies !-vol. x. p. 922.
Why, only two pages before the above observation was written, Mr. Alison had himself narrated that Napoleon did not leave Paris to join his army until the morning of the 12th-(no wonder, therefore, that the intelligence of his being at Maubeuge on the 10th proved to be premature');--and yet, with this truth before his eyes, Mr. Alison actually censures the English general for not having, on the receipt of this hoax, concentrated the allied army
VOL. I.XXII. NO. CXLIII.