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Pitt Press Series




HISTOIRE D'UN CONSCRIT
DE 1813



COLLECTION HETZEL.

Le Blocus.

By ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN, edited with Introduction
and Notes by ARTHUR R. ROPES, M.A.

Waterloo.

By ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN, edited with Introduction
and Notes by ARTHUR R. ROPES, M.A.

Madame Therese.

By ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN, edited with Introduction
and Notes by ARTHUR R. ROPES, M.A.

Histoire d'un Consent de 1813.

By ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN, edited with Introduction
and Notes by ARTHUR R. ROPES, M.A.



pRCKMANN-CHATRIAN

vHISTOIRE D'UN CONSCRIT
DE 1813



EDITED
WITH INTRODUCTION, MAPS AND NOTES

BY

ARTHUR REED ROPES, M.A.

LATE FELLOW OF KING'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE



CAMBRIDGE

AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
1904



Edition Classique, a u tori see par MM. Hetzcl ct Cie,
pour le Royaume Uni, ses colonies et dependances.



SonHou: C. J. CLAY AND SONS,
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS WAREHOUSE,
AVE MARIA LANE.
: 50, WELLINGTON STREET.




: F. A. BROCKHAUS.
Bombsra atrtJ Calcutta: MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD.



Fir.it Edition 1902.
Reprinted 1904.



\_All Rights reserve<f\



PREFACE

" I A HE present edition of Erckmann-Chatrian's Histoire
(Fun Conscrit de 1813 has been prepared from the
Edition Classique of Messrs. Hetzel & Co., by arrangement
with Messrs. Hachette & Co. The "map of Leipzig and
the neighbourhood is adapted from the plan in Die
Schlachten bei Leipzig (Brockhaus) by arrangement, and
the other maps have been prepared with the help of
Keith Johnston's Atlas to Alison's History of Europe.
I desire to acknowledge the help given by Dr Henry
Jackson, of Trinity College, Cambridge, in reading the
proofs of the notes and making suggestions.

A. R. R,
July, 1902.



CONTENTS

PAGE

INTRODUCTION vii

TEXT . . . .*,, ,



NOTES



INDEX



r 95



271



MAPS

Battle of Liitzen x jji

Neighbourhood of Leipzig xv

Saxony and the Seat of War . . . . . xv ijj



VII



INTRODUCTION



THERE are probably many readers of the Histoire (fun
Conscrit and the other celebrated stories of its authors, who
have never realised that Erckmann-Chatrian was not the name
of a single writer. Seldom in the annals of literature has there
been so complete and successful a collaboration as that of
Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian.

Both were of the German-French borderland of Alsace-
Lorraine ; Emile Erckmann was born at Phalsbourg (now
Pfalzburg) on May 2oth, 1822, and Louis Gratien Charles
Alexandre Chatrian at Soldatenthal in the department of the
Vosges, on December i8th, 1826. The former was the imagi-
native partner of the collaboration ; the latter the military,
energetic and practical man. Erckmann was the son of a
bookseller, and studied law, but never qualified for practising ;
Chatrian's father was a glass-blower, and the son worked his
way up to be a schoolmaster at Phalsbourg. Here the two
became friends and began to write together. Though Erckmann
was the more German and Chatrian the more French in tempera-
ment, both had that strong Republican patriotism that Alsace
has shown since the Revolution. One of their earliest works,
a play on the invasion of Alsace in 1814, was prohibited in
1848, owing to the disturbed state of public opinion. The two
friends went on with fantastic and legendary tales, mostly of
Alsace, a collection of which they published in 1849. In 1857 9



viii HISTOIRE D'UN CONSCRIT DE 1813

another series of tales appeared under the title of Llllustre
Docteur Mathe"us. Le Fou Ye'gof appeared in 1862, and in
1863, Madame Thfrese, dealing with life on the border during the
Revolution. This may be called the first of the works styled
" romans nationaux " by the authors, dealing with what Michelet
has styled the " unwritten history " of France. Erckmann and
Chatrian had talked with old men and women who remembered
the times of the Republic and the Empire ; and their narratives,
though often inaccurate in matters of fact, are frequently more
true in spirit and in the general impression they give than the
cold facts of verified history. The best-known of these "patriotic"
tales is undoubtedly the Histoire (fun Consent de 1813, dealing
with the first campaign of a young man of Phalsbourg, taken, in
spite of his lameness, in the great levy of 1813. The weariness
and misery of the Napoleonic wars, the despair after the disaster
of the Russian campaign, the melting away of the crowds of
conscripts, and the final hopeless butchery of Leipzig, are vividly
told in the story of the unwarlike, but by no means cowardly,
Joseph Bertha.

The two authors were now -famous ; and an eminent French
critic, M. Jules Claretie, alluding to them and to the brothers
De Goncourt, remarked " Les deux romanciers peut-tre les
plus remarquables de ce temps sont quatre? Waterloo (1865)
told of Joseph Bertha's return to war in 1815 ; La Guerre ( 1 866),
Le Blocus (1867), the Histoire d*un Paysan (1868 1870), and
the Histoire du Plebiscite (1872) followed the same method as
the Histoire d"un Conscrit. All were patriotic and Republican,
and hostile to the invaders of France, no less than to the
"Napoleonic idea" that provoked invasion.

The two authors did not confine their activity to historical
tales. In 1864 appeared L'Atni Fritz, a charming idyll, which
in 1876 was turned into a charming play. Both this and Les
Rantzau, a comedy dealing with an Alsatian family feud, have
been turned into operas by Mascagni. Another play, Le Juif
Pofanais, under the title of "The Bells," is famous for Sir
Henry Irving*s striking performance of the murderer.

This remarkable literary partnership did not endure to the



INTRODUCTION IX

end. In 1889 quarrels arose, and a lawsuit followed, in which
M. Erckmann recovered damages from M. Chatrian's secretary.
Soon after, Chatrian died; but Erckmann lived on in retirement
till 1899.

Part of the importance attached to the Erckmann-Chatrian
tales was probably political. They expressed the dislike of the
Republicans to militarism, Napoleonic ideas, and "la gloire."
Peaceful industry, individual liberty, and war only in self-defence,
were the chief points of their political creed. Hence the Im-
perialists denounced them as " antipatrioliques," and the great
but time-serving Sainte-Beuve called the epic of Joseph Bertha
"1'Iliade de la peur." On the other hand, the Republicans
extolled, perhaps unduly, the merits of works which were not
only attractive tales, but political pamphlets directed against the
" Caesarism " which they themselves were combating. The
struggle between military discipline and industrial comfort,
between glory and liberty, is still going on, and it is curious
that the man around whom the conflict has raged is an Alsatian,
as are some of his chief champions : but it has assumed a
new phase. It is accordingly probable that the Erckmann-
Chatrian tales, like most novels with a purpose, having been
praised above their merits, will now be unduly neglected.

It is doubtful whether the authors have not carried realism
in some cases too far. If the narrator of Waterloo is marched
aimlessly about after the capitulation of Paris, we must have a
list of all the places where he halts. It is surely possible to
produce the proper impression of reality without wearying the
reader with uninteresting details. Like many other novelists
before and since, the writers iorget that an absolutely faithful
and true picture of ordinary life, if it is nothing more, will be as
dull as ordinary life itself. The profusion of detail must be
all subordinated to some artistic effect, or the picture becomes a
mere photograph.

On the other hand, the method of these tales produces an
extraordinary effect of reality. The different figures live before
us the tradesmen of Phalsbourg, the soldiers, from veterans to
conscripts, the little towns and their notable citizens, the homely,



X HISTOIRE O'UN CONSCRIT DE 1813

hearty, rather material, but sound and healthy prosperity of
Alsace. Perhaps there is too much local and personal feeling
and too little national feeling ; Joseph Bertha is so occupied
with saving his own skin at Waterloo that he misses the last
stand of the Guard : but this is human, after all. Stendhal, in
his treatment of the same great battle, made the unheroic hero
of La Chartreuse de Parme sleep through the crisis of the fight
in a sutler's cart ; which would seem to carry the scorn of melo-
drama too far. The pictures of the French flight after Waterloo
are singularly alike in the two novels ; though the authors of
Waterloo are not likely to have borrowed from Stendhal. There
must have been plenty of survivors of the Napoleonic campaigns
left in Alsace, even after 1840.

The language of the novels is somewhat easy and colloquial.
Many are narratives in the first person, a form which Erckmann
and Chatrian affected. Hence the impression produced is
that of a story told by an actor in the events recorded. In
Le Bloats the narrator is a Jew dealer in old iron and old
clothes ; in the Histoire <fun Conscrit, a watchmaker's ap-
prentice, and so on. The style, therefore, is easy and clear,
suited to the supposed capacity of the narrator and his imaginary
friend, and with one or two locutions and tricks of manner, such
as the use of enfin for 'well,' when resuming the story, or
'principalement for 'especially.' In the main, however, the
French is clear and correct, as the narrators are supposed to
be fairly educated.

The historical groundwork of the particular tale selected for
the present volume may be considered more closely.

The Histoire d'un Consent deals with the most interesting
period of Napoleon's career the crisis of the great struggle
between the military ascendency of France and the national
revival of the Continent. In Spain he had met with his first
check on land ; but the war in the Peninsula was a side issue,
not actively dangerous to France, though irksome and ex-
hausting. He thought that he could adjourn the decisive
stroke till he was free in other quarters. But the fate of his
huge Russian expedition was a disaster. He had gathered up



INTRODUCTION XI

the military strength of nearly all Central and Western Europe
to crush Russia ; and the Russian arms, the cruel winter, but
chiefly the unwieldy size of his own host and the breakdown
of its supply arrangements, had left him with hardly a tenth of
the half-million who crossed the frontier. Prussia, thirsting for
revenge and the recovery of her lost power, sprang to arms ;
Austria, who had been an ally of Napoleon, became a doubtful
neutral. The frontier of the French supremacy was flung back
from the Niemen to the Elbe, and the wrecks of the Grand
Army were mostly cut off and blockaded in Polish and Prussian
fortresses.

Once more Napoleon called on exhausted France for a new
army, and once more his servile Senate granted all he asked.
But the twenty years of war had told their tale. The blood-tax
was to be levied on the sons of those who had waged war in
1792 and gone through the slaughter of 1793; and the young
men were far fewer and feebler than those of former years. Such
as they were, they were taken a year, two years, in advance of
the legal time. Those who had escaped the conscriptions of
former years were gathered up ; and the gunners of the block-
aded fleets, and the National Guards who had been trained
as a reserve, formed a strong nucleus of mature men. A vast
army sprang into existence at once, brave and loyal, but for
the most part inexperienced, and with little strength to endure
hardships. In artillery it was at first weak ; of cavalry, there
was practically none till the latter part of the campaign. The
story is the autobiography of one of these improvised soldiers,
a watch-maker's apprentice of Phalsbourg, with no ambition
beyond marrying his sweetheart and settling down in his
master's business. In spite of his lameness, he is caught by
the net of the Conscription, and flung into the enormous whirl
of the war. His experiences, though fictitious, may stand for
the real history of some hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen,
Italians, Germans of the Rhine Confederation, and other sub-
jects or vassals of Napoleon.

In April 1813 the masses of conscripts thronged forward
towards the Elbe. The allied Russians and Prussians had



xii HISTOIRE D'UN CONSCRIT DE 1813

already entered Dresden and Hamburg. But they were as
yet few; the Russians wasted by war, the Prussians not yet
organised in great numbers. Still, they were seasoned troops,
in the main, and had a fine and numerous cavalry, which would
secure them against pursuit. They determined to fight west
of the Elbe. On April 3Oth the French vanguard Souham's
division of Ney's corps, in which the narrator is supposed to
have served forced the passage of the Saale at Weissenfels,
fighting what to the Conscript seemed a great battle, but what
history chronicles as a skirmish. Next day, in a more serious
fight, Marshal Bessieres was killed. Napoleon did not expect
the Allies to attack his superior forces ; anjl his cavalry was too
weak to find out where the enemy lay. He therefore marched
on Leipzig to capture that important town, leaving Ney's corps
in position on his right rear to cover the march of the main
army. This gave the Allies their opportunity. On May 2nd they
fell with nearly all their forces, numbering some 70,000, on Ney's
40,000, hoping to overpower him, reach the high-road and roll
up the rear of the French army. Ney's young conscripts clung
desperately to the villages, Gross and Klein Gorschen, Kaia
and others, in the plain near Liitzen. Napoleon hurried his
troops back to help. Count Wittgenstein, the nominal com-
mander of the Allies, bungled the attack, and though the
Prussians under Bliicher carried most of the villages, they were
never strong enough to push through to the high road. By the
evening Napoleon's other troops came back to the field ; a fresh
corps threatened each flank of the Allies, and the Young Guard
finally drove them out of the contested villages. The French
had lost more heavily in the fight, but they could afford to lose ;
and the Allies, though merely repulsed, retreated and gave up
Dresden and the Elbe.

Here the Conscript's sight of the fighting ends, for a time,
for he is shot in the shoulder in Kaia, and taken to the military
hospital at Leipzig. The monotony of hospital life, the pleasure
of convalescence, are well brought out ; and the great change
which had passed over Germany and Europe since the French
were received as brothers is skilfully indicated by the contrast



XIV INTRODUCTION

between what Joseph Bertha sees and what his comrade Zimmcr
tells him of the past. Especially is this shown in the ill-will of
the Saxons, soon to lead to their desertion at the battle of
Leipzig. They are gloomy when they hear of the victory
of Napoleon at Bautzen, and the armistice concluded in June
1813 ; glad when they hear that Austria has joined the Allies in
August. The great victory of Dresden depresses them, but
the French defeats at Gross-Beeren, the Katzbach, Kulm and
Dennewitz make the citizens of Leipzig move about with a
secret joy, a spiteful satisfaction, which the Conscript guesses,
though he does not know its cause.

At last, being declared well, he tramps through the rain to
rejoin his regiment, and sees at once the reason why the
enemies of France rejoice. He learns of the defeats, of the
weary marches, the starvation and disease, the swarms of
Cossacks and irregulars infesting the French rear. The period
between the battle of Dennewitz and the last struggle at Leipzig
was marked by little serious fighting. The Allies, waiting for
their reserve armies, advanced where Napoleon was not, and
retreated before him. His young soldiers, hurried by forced
marches northward, eastward, southward, were wasting away
on their feet. Napoleon, waiting for the opportunity that never
came, moved to and fro in vain. At last exhausted Saxony could
feed his army no longer, though the host had melted since the
armistice from four hundred thousand to little over two hundred
thousand. He resolved to abandon Dresden, concentrate on
Magdeburg and push to Berlin, disregarding the Allies in
Bohemia. But his Marshals almost refused to follow him in
this desperate plan ; and he himself at the last moment left a
large garrison in Dresden.

The three Allied armies were now drawing nearer. Bliicher,
by a daring march, crossed the Elbe and joined Bernadotte, the
former Marshal of Napoleon, now Crown Prince of Sweden, who
commanded the Northern army covering Berlin. Schwarzen-
berg, with the grand allied army, moved north from Bohemia.
Their goal was Leipzig, and thither Napoleon also drew his
forces. He had about a hundred and seventy thousand men




NEIGHBOURHOOD OF
LEIPZIG.



KILOMETRES



i. Halle Gate (outer and inner) and suburb. 2. Hinter Thor.
3. Grimma Gate. 4. Sand Thor. 5. Peters Thor.

6. Pleissenburg. 7. Markranstadt suburb.



Xvi HISTO1RK D'UN CONtJCRIT DE 1813

in all; the Allies, when their reserves came up, nearly three
hundred thousand. But on the first day of the battle,
October i6th, Bernadotte was far in the rear, and the Russian
and Austrian reserves were still on the march. The Allies
formed an immense broken circle round the city; the French
a smaller ring. To the south and east of Leipzig, Napoleon
had, if anything, a slight advantage in the first day's battle;
but York's Prussians drove Marmont out of Mockern on the
north of the city. The i7th was a day of rest and suspense.
Napoleon had determined to retreat, yet he took no means
to make retreat easier by building bridges over the swampy
river Elster. On the i8th, the fight was resumed all along the
line, the Allied armies now having all their strength up. To
the north of Leipzig, the Saxons in Reynier's corps went over
to the Allies, and even fired on the French. Almost everywhere,
the French were pushed back towards the city. Their am-
munition was giving out, and the retreat began that night.
Next day, the iQth, the Russians and Prussians stormed
Leipzig, which was defended by the wrecks of two corps as
a rearguard; the single bridge over the Elster was blown up
too soon, and fifteen thousand unwounded French, besides over
twenty thousand wounded, fell into the hands of the Allies.
In all, each side lost over fifty thousand men.

The narrator speaks briefly of the wretched retreat of the
French wrecks, a retreat gilded by a ray of success at Hanau,
where the Bavarians (who had joined the Allies) tried to inter-
cept Napoleon and were beaten. He only sees the end of the
march in a dream, for he is taken with the typhus which ravaged
the army, and wakes to find himself in the farm-house of his
aunt, nursed by his sweetheart, and hearing the guns of the
siege of Phalsbourg near at hand.

The tale is vivid, graphic, natural. The narrator usually
exaggerates the Allied numbers and underrates the French
forces. But this is the common illusion of soldiers, and even
of patriotic historians. In some of the details of the fighting,
he is quite inaccurate. At Liitzen, the village of Kaia took fire
and was burnt down, and he could not have lain wounded



INTRODUCTION XV11

there; while Bliicher's wound, mentioned in the text, com-
pelled him to retire from the field for a time, so that the
narrator could not have seen him. Again, at Leipzig, Souham's
divisions were detached by Ney to Napoleon's aid, but not
seriously engaged on the i6th of October. The Saxons who
deserted on the i8th of October were not 16,000, as the Con-
script says, but 4,000 ; and the attack on Schonfeld on that day
was made by Russians throughout. The storming of Leipzig
on the igth was the work of Russians and Prussians, with a few
Swedes, no Austrians being engaged on that day; though he
professes to have fought them. But these are unimportant
points. In the main, we feel sure, matters must have happened
as they are described.

The purpose of the work is to show the horrors of war, and
especially of the Napoleonic wars of aggression. There is not,
from the nature of the story, so much study oi Alsatian
character as in many of the books by the authors. Zimmer,
the old Napoleonic soldier, is excellent, and so is Ze'bede', the
irascible Phalsburger. M. Goulden, the old Republican, is a
fine, if rather idealised type, and Aunt Gre'del is full oi" natural
touches ; while Catherine is the German peasant heroine to the
life. But the narrator is not only a conscript, but the Conscript.
He is the type and representative of all the brave, patriotic
lads that were the pawns of the great chess-player Napoleon
in his last match on even terms the lads of whom the emperor,
in his famous interview with Metternich, exclaimed that "A
man like me troubles himself little about the life of a million
of men." In the story of his wound and fever, of his weariness
and hunger and cold, of his futile marching and hopeless
fighting, Joseph Bertha is the spokesman of the nameless and
numberless victims of " glory," the counsel for the host of silent
witnesses against the great Corsican and the legend of his
greatness.



HISTOIRE
D'UN CONSCRIT DE 1813



CEUX qui n'ont pas vu la gloire de 1'Empereur Napoleon
dans ies anndes i8io ; 1811 et 1812, ne sauront jamais
a quel degre de puissance petit monter un homme.

Quand il traversal! la Champagne, la Lorraine ou
I'Alsace, Ies gens, au milieu de la moisson ou des 5
vendanges, abandonnaient tout pour courir a sa ren-
contre ; il en arrivait de huit et dix lieues ; Ies femmes,
Ies enfants, Ies vieillards se precipttaient sur sa route en
levant Ies mains, et criant : Vive f E mpereurj vive
rEmpcreur! On aurait cru que c'etait Dieu ; qu'il ro
faisait respirer le monde, et que si par malheur il mou-
rait, tout serait fini. Quelques anciens de la Republique
qui hochaient la tete et se permettaient de dire, entre
deux vins, que 1'Empereur pouvait torn her, passaient-
pour des fous. Cela paraissait centre nature, et meme 15
on n'y pensait jamais.

Moi, j'etais en apprentissage, depuis 1804, chez le
vieil horloger Melchior Goulden, a Phalsbourg. Comme
je paraissais faible et que je boitais un peu, ma mere
avait voulu me faire apprendre un metier plus doux que 20
ceux de notre village ; car, au Dugsberg, on ne trouve
que des bucherons, des charbonniers et des schlitteurs.
M. Goulden m'aimait bien. Nous demeurions au
premier etage de la grande maison qui fait le coin en
face du Bauf-Rouge, pres de la porte de France. 25

C'est la qu'il fallait voir arriver des princes, des
ambassadeurs et des generaux, Ies uns a cheval, Ies
K. c. i



2 HISTOIRE D'UN CONSCRIT DE 1813

autres en caliche, les autres en berline, avec des habits
galonne's, des plumets, des fourrures et des decora-
tions de tous les pays. Et sur la grande route il fallait
voir passer les courriers, les gstafettes, les convois de
5 poudre, de boulets, les canons/Tes caissons, la cavalerie
et 1'infanterie 1 Quel temps ! quel mouvement !

En cinq ou six ans, 1'hotelier Georges fit fortune ; il
cut des pres, des vergers, des maisons et des e"cus en
abondance, car tous ces gens arrivant d'Allemagne, de

xo Suisse, de Russie, de Pologne ou d'ailleurs ne regar-

daient pas a quelques poigndes d'or repandues sur les

grands chemins ; c'e"taient tous des nobles, qui se

faisaient gloire en quelque spite de ne rien menager.

Du matin au soir, et meme pendant la nuit, 1'hotel

15 du Bceuf-Rouge ten ait table ouverte. Le long des
hautes fenetres en bas, on ne voyait que les grandes
nappes blanches, e"tincelantes d'argenterie et couvertes
de gibier, de poisson et d'autres mets rares, autour des-
quels ces voyageurs venaient s'asseoir c6te k cote. On

20 n'entendait dans la grande cour derriere que les hen-
nissements des chevaux, les cris des postilions, les e"clats
de rire des servantes, le roulement des voitures, arrivant
ou partant, sous les hautes portes cocheres. Ah ! 1'hotel
du Bxuf-Rouge n'aura jamais. un temps de prosperite

25 pareille !

On voyait aussi descendre \\ des gens de la ville,
qu'on avail connus dans le temps pour chercher du bois
sec & li foret, ou ramasser le fumier des chevaux sur les
grandes routes. Us taient passes commandants, colonels,

30 ge'ne'raux, un sur mille, a force de batailler dans tous les
pays du monde.

Le vieux Melchior, son bonnet de soie noire tird
sur ses larges oreilles poilues, les paupicres flasques,
le nez pinc dans ses grandes besides de corne et les

35 Ibvres serre"es, ne pouvait s'empecher de deposer sur
I'^tabfi sa loupe et son poingon et de jeter quelquefois
un regard vers 1'auberge, surtout quand les grands coups



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