Page images

or the impetuous Lannes, it mattered not. the Convention, which yet scarcely knew He needed them all, and he thus concen the cause of anything it did, he was detrated around him the greatest elements of prived of his commission and returned to strength that man can wield. It is fear- Paris. Amid the conflicting elements ful to see the spirits Napoleon moulded that surrounded the young soldier in the into his ambitious plans, and the combin- French capital, he soon found work to ed energy he let loose on the armies of do. An ardent republican, his bold poliEurope. Knowing the moral power of tics and bolder manner could not long great and striking qualities, he would escape the notice of government, and he have no leader without them. In this he was sent to the army in Italy. As chief showed his consummate knowledge of of a battalion at Milisimo, he conducted human nature, especially of Frenchmen. himself so gallantly and fought with such Enthusiasm and the reliance on one they desperate impetuosity, that he arrested never trusted in vain, in battle, will carry Napoleon's attention in the hottest of the an army farther than the severest disci- engagement, and he made him colonel on pline. A company of conscripts would the spot. Crossing the Po, soon after, follow Ney as far as a body of veterans under the enemy's fire, he was the first to a common leader. So would a column reach the opposite bank; and finally charge with Lannes at their head, when crowned his brilliant exploits at Lodi, with a less daring and resolute man they where he was made general of brigade, would break and fly. Moral power is and soon after of division. After the sucgreat as physical, even where everything cessive victories of Montenotte, Milisimo depends on hard blows. Mind and will and Dego, Napoleon resolved to push on give to the body all its force—so do they to Milan. In his progress he was forced also to an army. The truth of this was to cross the Adda, at Lodi. Twelve witnessed and proved in our struggle thousand Austrian infantry, and four with the parent country.

thousand cavalry, with a baitery of thirty Jean Lannes was born in Lectoure, a cannon, stood at the farther extremity of small town in Normandy, in April, 1769. the bridge he was to pass, to dispute its His father was an humble mechanic, and passage. On the first of May, Napoleon never dreaming his son would be any- arrived at Lodi with his army. The thing more, bound him an apprentice to Austrian cannon and musketry began one in his own sphere of life. In ordi. immediately to play on the bridge, so that nary times young Lannes would probably it seemed impossible to reconnoitre the have remained in the humble station in ground. But Napoleon, sheltering his which his birth had placed him, and be- men behind the houses of the town, sallied come in time, perhaps, a passable shoe. out into the midst of the deadly storm, and maker or carpenter. But France was immediately arranged his plan. Forming awaking from a long sleep, and the ter- a column of seven thousand picked men, rible elements that were to change the he placed himself at their head and rushed whole order of things began already to on the bridge ; but the cannon balls and move. A mighty future seemed beckon- grape-shot and the bullets of the infantry ing the martial talent of France towards swept every inch of the narrow defilé, it, and a field was opening where genius and rattled like an incessant shower of and daring could win for themselves honor hail-stones against its stony sides. So and renown. Young Lannes ran away from incessant and furious was the discharge, his master, and enlisted for a common that a cloud of smoke lay like a dense fog soldier in the army. Soon after the Revo- round the bridge; yet into its very bosom lution was ushered in, he was sent with moved the intrepid column. The awful the army that operated on the Pyrenean volley that smote their breasts made these frontier. He soon exhibited the two bold men stop and stagger like a strong striking traits of his character—traits ship smitten by the wave. For a mowhich eminently fitted him for the scenes ment the column wavered and balanced in which his life was to pass—viz., reck- on the pass, for a thousand had already less daring and unconquerable resolution. fallen, and it was marching straight into These qualities shining out in the heat of a volcano of fire; but the next moment, battle and in the most desperate straits, seeing themselves supported by the tiral800n won for him the regard of his officers, leurs that were fording the stream beneath and he was made chief of brigade. In the arches, they shouted,“ Vive la Repubthis rank he fought under Lefebvre, but lique !" and, receiving the awful storm of soon after, for some cause known only to cannon-balls and grape-shot on their un.

[ocr errors]

shrinking hosoms, rushed forward and eled bayonets and leaning forms, close bayoneted the artillery-men at their guns. after their intrepid leader ; but unable to Lannes was the first man across, and withstand the tempest of fire and of

Bonaparte the second. Spurring his ex- lead which the hotly-worked battery cited steed on the Austrian ranks, he hurled in their faces, seized Bonaparte snatched a banner from the enemy, and in their arms, and trampling over the just as he was about to seize another his dead and dying, hurried him back brave horse sunk under him. In a mo- through the smoke of battle. But the ment the swords of half a dozen cuiras. Austrians pressed close after the disorsiers glittered above him, and his destruc- dered columns, and driving them into the tion seemed inevitable. But extricating marsh in the rear, Bonaparte was left to himself with incredible exertion from his the middle in the water, and surrounded dying steed, he arose amid the sabre by the enemy. But the next moment, strokes that fell like lightning around finding their beloved chieftain gone, the him, and leaping on the horse of an Aus- soldiers cried out over the roar of battle, trian officer behind him, slew him with a Forward, to save your general !" Paussingle stroke, and hurling him from his ing in their flight, they wheeled and saddle, seated himself in his place, and charged the advancing enemy, and driv. then, wheeling on the enemy, charged ing them back over the morass, bore off the cuirassiers like a thunderbolt, and in triumph the helpless Napoleon. Durfought his way through them single. ing all this bloody struggle, Lannes never handed, back to his followers. It is said left him; but advancing when he ad. that Napoleon never forgot the bearing of vanced, charging like fire by his side, and Lannes on that occasion. The fury of a covering his person with his own body demon seemed to possess him, and the from the bullets that mowed everything strength of ten men appeared to be con- down around them, he received three centrated in his single arm. No wonder wounds, which well nigh relieved him of Bonaparte promoted him on the spot. his life. He was suffering from a wound His own daring was reckless enough, when he entered the battle, but it did not but Lannes' was still more so, and it prevent him from doing deeds of incredi. seems almost a miracle that he escaped ble daring. Nothing shows the personal death.

exposure and personal daring of the geneNapoleon, whom his soldiers here, for rals, who,one after another, rose to be marthe first time, gave the title of “the little shals and dukes, more than the frequency corporal,” in honor of his courage, was, with which they were wounded in their ever after, accustomed to speak of this earlier career. Here, after three pitched sanguinary struggle as “the terrible pas- battles, we find Murat, Ney, Macdonald, sage of the bridge of Lodi.” It was by Berthier, and Lannes, all wounded. such acts of heroic valor that Lannes ac We cannot follow him through all his quired the sobriquet among the army of after career, but must select out those “Orlando” and “ Ajax.” A few months particulars in which he exhibited his most after, he exhibited the same fearlessness striking qualities. Lannes was frank, of character and headlong courage, at even to bluntness, and so impatient of the passage of the bridge of Arcola. restraint that he sometimes became inAfter the battle had raged for some time, subordinate, but was always brave and the Austrian general, Mitronski, ad. firm as a rock in the hour of battle. Invanced across the bridge, and charged the deed, his very impatience of control, and division under Augereau. The French, frequent outbursts of passion, when repulsing the assault, followed hard after crossed in his purpose, made him rise in the fugitives, and pressed on the bridge. excitement and increase in daring, the The slaughter then became terrific. The greater the obstacles that opposed him. Austrian artillery opened in their very Always heading his columns in the desfaces, and they were driven back almost perate onset, and exposing his person by the concussion of the discharge, and where death reaped down the brave fastreeling a moment in their footsteps, broke est, he so fastened himself in the affecand fled. At this critical juncture, Na. tions of his soldiers, that they would poleon seized a standard, and, with his follow him into any extremity. By the generals around him, advanced through a openness of his character and brilliancy perfect hurricane of grape-shot, to the of his exploits, he fixed himself deeply centre of the bridge, and planted it there. also in the heart of Napoleon, who alThe brave grenadiers pressed, with lev. ways wished him by his side, and leaned

on him in battle as he did on Ney. But France was overthrown, and the comthe impetuosity of his character demand- mander-in-chief of the army became the ed constant action, and he grew irritable First Consul of the Empire. and unmanly when compelled to suffer Bonaparte having resolved to overwithout resistance. He could encounter throw the imbecile Directory, and take any obstacle against which he was al- the power into his own hands, assemlowed to dash, and would enter any dan- bled around him the most determined ger where he could swing the arm of spirits the army could furnish. On defiance; but he had none of the martyr- the morning that he mounted his steed spirit in him. Pinion him, and he would and rode towards the Tuilleries, resolved become frantic under suffering. He needed to stake everything on one bold move, self-control and the discipline of calm and and pass the power of France into his collected thought. Trained in the camp, own hands, seven men, as yet only parand educated in the roar of battle, he was tially known to fame, were assembled in all action and excitement. Yet his ex the palace, sworn to his interests and citement made him steady: In the midst bound to his destiny. Those seven names of falling thousands and the shock of afterward made Europe tremble. They mighty armies, his mind worked with were Moreau, Murat, Marmont, Macdonsingular clearness and power. It needed ald, Berthier, Lefebvre, and Lannes. Only the roar of cannon and the tumult of a one was wanting the intrepid Ney. battle-field, to balance the inward excite- Napoleon felt the loss of him, and when ment which drove him on. Hence, in about to present himself before the bar his earlier career, he could not be trusted of the ancients, said, " I would give, at alone with an army, and Bonaparte knew this moment, two hundred millions to it best. But he learned the duties of a have Ney by my side.” great leader fast, and Napoleon says him Being employed awhile in France, he self of him, “ I found him a dwarf, I lost afterwards joined the army destined to him a giant.”

Italy, and shared largely in the glory of In the campaign of Egypt, he appears that brilliant campaign. He accompathe same great general, and fought at nied Napoleon over the Saint Bernard, or Aboukir and Acre as he had done before rather he went over five days before him. at Lodi and Arcola. At Acre, he nearly The van-guard,composed of six regiments, lost his life, and was carried from the was placed under his command, and he field of battle desperately wounded. In set out at midnight for the top of the pass. the march from Alexandria to Cairo, While Bonaparte was still at Martiguy, across the desert, Lannes exhibited that Lannes was rushing down into Italy and impatience and irritability we have before had already opened his musketry on the mentioned. In the midst of a boundless Austrians. When the whole army was plain of sand, without water, parched by stopped by the fort of Bard, Lannes was the sun, and surrounded by troops of still sent on with the advance guard by Bedouins, the army gave way to despair, another path to take possession of the and Murat and Lannes among the rest. valley of Ivrea. Wherever there was a battery to be But one of the most remarkable actions stormed, or an army of eighty thousand of his life, illustrating best the iron will and men to be annihilated, none spurred more almost unparalleled bravery of the man, joyously into the battle than they. But was his battle with the Austrians at Monto bear up against the solitude and silence tebello, which gave him the title of Duke. of the desert-against hunger and thirst, Still leading the van-guard he had carand a burning sun—foes that could not ried over the Saint Bernard, he came upon be routed or even assailed, required more the Po and upon nearly eighteen thouself-control than either possessed. They sand Austrians, admirably posted with became dispirited and desperate, and their right wing resting on the Appedashed their plumed hats to the ground nines, and their left reaching off into the and trampled them in the sand; and it is plain, while the whole field was swept said, even conspired to return to Alexan- by batteries that lined the hill-sides. dria with the army. Ney and Macdonald When Lannes came upon this strong array never would have acted thus.

and discovered their position, he saw at Selected by Bonaparte as one of the once that he must retreat or fight with no eight officers to return with him to Paris, hope, except to maintain his ground till he played an important part in that con- Victor, five or six miles in the rear, could spiracy by which the government of come up. Independent of the superior

position of the Austrians, they had be. before superior numbers and the awful iween seventeen and eighteen thousand fire of the artillery ; but still Lannes ralmen,* while Lannes could muster only lied them to another and another effort. about eight thousand, or less than half Under one of the most destructive fires to the number of his enemy. But his rear which a regiment was perhaps ever exrested on the Po, and fearing the effect of posed, he supported his men by almost a retreat in such a disastrous position he superhuman efforts. Standing himself immediately resolved to withstand the where the shot ploughed up the ground shock of the whole army with his little in furrows about him, he not only coolly band. The cheerfulness with which the surveyed the danger, but by his comsoldiers advanced to this unequal combatmands and presence held his men for a shows the wonderful power he wielded long time in the very face of death. But over them. They were not only ready to it was impossible for any column, unless march on the enemy, but advanced to the all composed of such men as Lannes, charge with shouts of enthusiasm. We long to withstand such a fire; and they scarcely know of a more striking instance were on the point of turning and fleeing, of valor than the behaviour of Lannes on when one of the divisions of Victor's this occasion. There was no conceal- corps arrived on the field and rushed with ment of the danger-no chance of sudden a shout into the combat. This restored surprise, and no waiting the effect of some for a time the fight. The Austrians were other movement on which his own would again repulsed, when, bringing up a fresh depend. It was to be downright hard reserve, the French were forced to retire. fighting, and he knew it; fighting, too, Now advancing and now retreating, the against hopeless odds for the first few two armies wavered to and fro, like mist hours. But all the heroic in him was when it first meets the rising blast. As aroused, and his chivalric bearing before division after_division of Victor's corps his army inspired them with the highest came up, the French rallied, till at length, ardor. Especially after the battle was wben they had all arrived, and the two fairly set, and it was necessary to make armies stood twelve to eighteen thousand one man equal to three, he seemed en- - the whole French force and the whole dowed with the spirit of ten men. He Austrian reserve in the field—the combat was everywhere present, now heading a became dreadful. Though pressed by such column in a charge—now rallying a shat superior numbers, and wasted by such tered division—and now fighting despe- commanding and hotly-worked batteries, rately, hand to hand, with the enemy. Lannes refused to yield one inch of the Without waiting the attack of the Aus- ensanguined field. It is said that his ap. trians, he formed his troops en échelon, pearance in this battle was absolutely and advanced to the charge. Two bat- terrific. Besmeared with powder and talions marched straight on the murderous blood and smoke, he rode from division artillery, which, stationed in the road, to division, inspiring courage and daring swept it as the cannon did the bridge of in the exhausted ranks, rallying again Lodi. The third battalion endeavored to and again the wasted columns to the descarry the heights, while Watrin with the perate charge, and holding them by his remainder, marched full on the centre. personal daring and reckless exposure of The battle at once became terrific. Be- his life, hour after hour, to the murderfore the furious onset of the French, the ous fire. General Rivaud, battling for the Austrians were driven back, and seemed heights, and the brave Statrin, charging about to break and fly, when a reserve of like fire on the centre, cheered at every the Imperialists came up, and six fresh repulse by the calm,stern voice of Lannes, regiments were hurled on the exhausted fought as Frenchmen had not fought beranks of the French. The heights of fore during the war.

The moral power Revetta had been carried, but the fresh which one man may wield, was never onset was too heavy for the victorious more visible than on this occasion. troops, and they were driven in confusion Lannes stood the rock of that battle field, down the hill. The centre staggered back around which his men clung with a te.

[ocr errors]

* Alison, in giving an account of this battle, makes the very slight mistake of putting the Austrian army at fifteen thousand, and the French under Lannes nine thousand. Victor's corps, which joined Lannes during the day, he puts at seven thousand, while Thiers makes it at the most but six thousand. Alison makes the armies equal after Victor came up, while Thiers states the Austrians to be superior by one-third.


nacity that nothing could shake. Had he events, Lannes never fought a more des. fallen, in five minutes that battle would perate battle than this, and as evidence have been a rout. On his life hung vic- that Napoleon took the same view of it, tory, and yet it seemed not worth a hope, he gave him the title of Duke of Montiin the awful fire through which he con- hello, which his family bear with just stantly galloped. From eleven in the pride to this day. morning till eight at night, did he press Bonaparte did not forget the great with an army, first of six, then of twelve qualities of a commander he exhibited on thousand, on one of eighteen thousand, this occasion, and ever afterwards placed for nine long hours, without intermission him in the post of danger. In the battle or relief. It was one succession of on of Marengo, which took place a few sets and repulses, till darkness began to days after, he performed prodigies of gather over the scene. One fourth of his valor. Wandering over this renowned army had sunk on the field where they battle-field, Lannes was recalled to our fought. At length Riviaud, having car mind at almost every step. The river ried the heights, came down like an ava Bormida crosses the plain between the lanche on the centre, wbile Watrin led little hamlet, of some half a dozen houses, his intrepid column for the last time on of Marengo, and Alessandria, where the the artillery. Both were carried, and the Austrians lay encamped. Coming out Austrians were compelled to retreat. from the city in the morning, and crossing Bonaparte arrived just in time to see the Bormida under a severe fire of the the battle won. He rode up to Lannes, French, they deployed into the open field, surrounded by the remnants of his guard, and marched straight on Victor, posted and found him drenched with blood-his just before Marengo. He had stationed sword dripping in his exhausted hand— himself behind a deep and muddy stream his face blackened with powder and resembling, indeed, in its banks and smoke—and his uniform looking more as channel, a narrow canal rather than a if it had been dragged under the wheels rivulet-and sustained the shock of the of the artillery during the day, than worn enemy with veteran firmness, for two by a living man. But a smile of exulta- hours; but overpowered by superior tion passed over his features, as he saw numbers, he was fast losing his strength, his commander gazing with pride and when Lannes came up and restored the affection upon him, while the soldiers, combat. There, divided only by this weary and exhausted as they were, could narrow ditch-across which the front not restrain their joy at the victory they ranks could almost touch bayonets—did had won.

the tiralleurs stand for two hours, and Such was the terrible battle of Monti- fire into each other's bosoms, while the bello; and Lannes, in speaking of it after cannon, brought to within pistol shot, wards, said, in referring to the deadly fire opened horrible gaps in the dense ranks of the artillery, before which he held his at every discharge, which were immemen with such unflinching firmness, “I diately filled with fresh victims. It did could hear the bones crash in my division, not seem possible, as I stood beside this like hail-stones against windows.” A more narrow stream, across which I could alterrific description of the effect of cannon most leap, that two armies had stood and shot on a close column of men, we never fired into each other's bosoms, hour after remember to have seen. We have heard hour, across it. of single-handed sea-fights of frigate with But we do not design to go into the frigate, where the firing was so close and particulars of this battle. Austrian numhot that the combatants could hear the bers, and the two hundred Austrian cansplitting of the timbers in the enemy's non, were too much for Victor and Lannes ship at every broadside, but we never be. both together. The little stream of Fonfore heard of a battle where the bones tanone was carried, and these two heroes could be heard breaking in the human were compelled to fall back on the second body, as cannon balls smote through them. line. This, after a desperate resistance, Yet no one would ever have thought of was also forced back. Victor's corps, that expression, had it not been suggested exhausted by four hours' fighting, finally to him by what he actually heard. At all gave way, and broke and fled towards

Alison, with his accustomed correctness, says: “At length the arrival of Napoleon, with the division of Gardanne, decided the victory.” This reminds us of his account of the taking of the President by the Endymion.



« PreviousContinue »