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Joseph Bonaparte online

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" I leave in a few days, to place myself at
the head of my army, and, with the aid of God,
to crown in Madrid the King of Spain, and to
plant my eagles upon the forts of Lisbon.

" The Emperor of Eussia and I have met
at Erfurt. Our first thought has been of
peace. We have even resolved to make many
sacrifices that, if possible, the hundred millions
of men whom we represent may enjoy the ben-
efits of maritime commerce. We are in per-
fect harmony, and unchangeably united for
peace as for war."

In the mean time Joseph, struggling heroi-
cally against adversity, and exceedingly em-
barrassed by the false position in which he
found himself placed, received many consoling
messages of confidence and affection from
prominent men in the Spanish nation. We
present the following extract from a letter ad-


The marvellous Energy of Napoleon.

dressed to him on the 2d of September, 1808,
by M. M. Azanza and Urquijo, as a specimen
of many others which might be quoted :

" We do not doubt that your Majesty con-
templates, with deepest grief, the disasters with
which Spain is menaced, by the obstinacy of
those people who will not know the true inter-
ests of the realm. But at least no one is ig-
norant that your Majesty has done and is do-
ing every thing which is humanly possible to
avoid such calamities for his subjects. The
day will come when they will recognize the
benevolent intentions and paternal kindness
of your Majesty ; and they will respond to it
by testimonies of gratitude and of fidelity
which will fill with contentment the noble
heart of your Majesty."

The almost supernatural power of the Em-
peror was never more conspicuously displayed
than in the brief, triumphant, overwhelming
campaign which ensued. He wrote to Joseph
from Erfurt, " I leave to-morrow for Paris, and
within a month shall be at Bayonne. Send
me the exact position of the army, that I may
form a definite organization by making as lit-
tle displacement as possible. In the present
state of affairs, we may conclude that the pre-


Napoleon visits Spain.

sumption of the enemy will lead him to re-
main in the positions which he now occupies
The nearer he remains to us the better it will
be. The war can be terminated in a single
blow by a skillfully-combined manoeuvre, and
for that it is necessary that I should be there."

The single blow Napoleon contemplated
would unquestionably have annihilated his
foes, but for an inopportune movement of Mar-
shal Lefebre. As it was, it required three or
four blows, which were delivered with stun-
ning and bewildering power and rapidity. On
the 29th of October Napoleon took his car-
riage for Bayonne. Madrid was distant from
Paris about seven hundred miles. The rains
of approaching winter had deluged the roads.
He soon abandoned his carriage, and mounted
his horse. Apparently insensible to exposure
or fatigue, he pressed forward by night and by
day, until, at two o'clock in the morning of the
3d of November, he reached Bayonne. He
found that his orders had not been obeyed, and
that the troops, instead of being concentrated,
had been dispersed. Instantly, at the very
hour of his arrival, new life was infused into
every thing. He seemed by instinct to corn,
prehend the posture of affairs, and to know


Spanish Boasting.

just what was to be done. Orders were is-
sued with amazing rapidity ; couriers flew in
all directions. Barracks were erected \ the
troops were reviewed; unexecuted contracts
were thrown up; agents were sent in every
direction to purchase all the cloths in the
south of France; hundreds of hands were busy
in cutting and making garments ; and at the
close of a day of such work as few mortals
have ever accomplished, Napoleon leaped into
his saddle and galloped sixty miles over the
mountains to Tolosa, on the Spanish side of
the Pyrenees. Here he indulged in an hour
or two of rest, and then galloped on thirty
miles farther to Vittoria. He encamped with
the Imperial Guard outside of the city.

The Spaniards have always been accused
of a tendency to vainglorious boasting. The
trivial successes which they had attained, in
alliance with the English, quite intoxicated
them. " We have conquered," they said, " the
armies of the great Napoleon. We will soon
trample all his hosts in the dust. With an
army of five hundred thousand indignant
Spaniards we will march upon Paris, and sack
the city. The powers of Eussia, Austria, and
Prussia have fallen before Napoleon; but

5 iu


The triumphant March of the Emperor.

Spanish peasants, headed by the priests and the
monks, will roll back the tide of victory."
Such was the insane boasting.

Napoleon was, at the same time, the boldest
and the most cautious of generals. He ever
made provision for every possible reverse.
Stationing two strong forces to guard his
flanks, he took fifty thousand of the elite of
his army, and plunged upon the centre of the
Spanish troops. Such an onset none but vet-
erans could withstand. There was scarcely
the semblance of a battle. The Spaniards fled,
throwing down their arms, and leaping like
goats amidst the crags of the mountains.
Pressing resistlessly forward, Napoleon reach-
ed Burgos on the night of the llth. Here the
Spaniards attempted another stand upon some
strongly intrenched heights. A brief conflict
scattered them in the wildest confusion, defeat-
ed, disbanded, leaving cannon, muskets, flags,
and munitions of war.

Onward he swept, without a check, without
delay, crushing, overwhelming, scattering his
foes, over the intrenched heights of Espinosa,
through the smouldering streets of the town,
across the bridge of Trueba, choked with terri-
fied fugitives, through the pass of Somosierra,


Napoleon enters Madrid.

in one of the most astounding achievements
which war has ever witnessed, till he led his
victorious troops, with no foe within his reach,
into the streets of Madrid. He commenced
the campaign at Vittoria on the 9th of No-
vember, and on the 4th of December his army
was encamped in the squares of the Spanish
metropolis. Europe gazed upon this meteoric
phenomenon with astonishment and alarm.

The Spanish populace had been roused
mainly by the priests. In their frenzy, burn-
ing and assassinating, they overawed all who
were in favor of regenerating Spain by a change
of dynasty. It is the undisputed testimony
that the proprietors, the merchants, the inhab-
itants generally who were rich, or in easy cir-
cumstances, and even the magistrates and mili-
tary chiefs, were quite disposed to listen to the
propositions of the Emperor. But overawed
by the populace, who threatened to carry things
to the last extremity, they dared not manifest
their sentiments.

As the French army took possession of the
city, order was immediately restored. The the-
atres were re-opened, the shops displayed their
wares, the tides of business and pleasure flowed
unobstructed along the streets. Numerous dep-


Proclamation of Napoleon.

utations, embracing the most wealthy and re-
spectable inhabitants of Madrid, waited upon
the Emperor with their congratulations, and re-
newed their protestations of fidelity to Joseph.
The Emperor then issued a proclamation to
the Spanish nation, in which he said,

" I have declared, in a proclamation of the
2d of June, that I wished to be the regenerator
of Spain. To the rights which the princes of
the ancient dynasties have ceded to me, you
have wished that I should add the rights of
conquest. That, however, shall not change my
inclination to serve you. I wish to encourage
every thing that is noble in your exertions.
All that is opposed to your prosperity and
your grandeur I wish to destroy. The shack-
Jes which have enslaved the people . I have
broken. I have given you a liberal constitu-
tion, and, in the place of an absolute monarchy,
a monarchy mild and limited. It depends
upon yourselves whether that constitution shall
still be your law."


Retreat of Sir John Moore and Sir David Bxird.



IN less than five weeks from the time when
Napoleon first placed his foot upon the soil
of Spain he was master of more than half the
kingdom. Sir John Moore, with an army of
about 30,000 Englishmen, was marching rapid-
ly from Portugal, to form a junction with an-
other English army of about 10,000 men un-
der Sir David Baird, who were advancing from
Corunna. It was supposed in England that
the co-operation of these highly-disciplined
troops with the masses of the Spaniards who
had already fought so valiantly, would speedily
secure the overthrow of the French.

But when Sir John Moore and Sir David
Baird learned that Napoleon himself was in
Spain, that he had scattered the Spanish armies
before him as the tornado drives the withered
leaves of the forest, that he was already in
possession of Madrid, and would soon be ready
to direct all his energies against them, they
were both greatly alarmed, and, turning about,
fled precipitately back to their ships. A depu


The Spanish Deputation.

tation of about twelve hundred of the notables
of Spain called upon Napoleon, to confer with
him respecting the affairs of the kingdom. He
informed them very fully of the benefits he
wished to confer upon Spain by rescuing the
people from the dominion of the old feudal
lords, and bringing them into harmony with
the more enlightened views of modern times.
He closed his remarks to them by saying,

"The present generation will differ in opinion
respecting me. Too many passions have been
called into exercise. But your posterity will
be grateful to me as their regenerator. They
will place in the number of memorable days
those in which I have appeared among you.
From those days will be dated the prosperity
of Spain. These are my sentiments. Go con-
sult your fellow-citizens. Choose your part,
but do it frankly, and exhibit only true colors."

General Moore was retreating toward Corun-
na. An English fleet had repaired to that port
to receive the troops on board. On the 22d of
December Napoleon left Madrid, with 40,000
men, to pursue the flying foe. The Spaniards,
instead of rallying to the support of the Eng-
lish, whom they never loved, dispersed in all
directions, leaving them to their fate. " The


Anecdote of Napoleon.

Spanish insurgents," says Napier," were con-
scious that they were fighting the battles of
England. To restore Spain to Ferdinand, Eng-
land expended one hundred millions sterling
($500,000,000) on her own operations. She
subsidized Spain and Portugal besides, and
with her supply of clothing, arms, and ammuni-
tion, maintained the armies of both, even to
the guerrillas." 1

By forced marches the Imperial troops rush-
ed along, threading the defiles of the mount-
ains of (raudarrama in mid-winter, through
drifts and storms of snow. Napoleon climbed
the mountains on foot, sharing all the toil and
peril of his troops. Such a leader any army
would follow with enthusiasm. In one of the
wildest passes of the mountains he passed a
night in a miserable hut. Savary, who was
with him, writes :

"The single mule which carried his bag-
gage was brought to this wretched house. He
was provided with a good fire, a tolerable sup-
per, and a bed. On those occasions the Em-
peror was not selfish. He was quite unmind-
ful of the next day's wants when he alone was
concerned. He shared his supper and his fire

1 Napier, vol. iii. p. 78, voL iv. p. 438.


Atrocities of the English.

with all who had been able to keep up with
him, and even compelled those to eat whose
Teserve kept them back."

General Moore was straining every nerve
to escape. The weather was frightful, and the
miry roads almost impassable. The advance-
guard of Napoleon was soon within a day's
march of the foe. General Moore, as he fiVl,
blew up the bridges behind him, and reckless-
ly plundered the wretched inhabitants. His
troops became exceedingly exasperated against
the Spaniards for their cowardly desertion, and
reproached them with ingratitude.

" We ungrateful !" the Spaniards replied ;
"you came here to serve your own interests,
and now you are running away without de-
fending us."

So bitter was the hostility which thus arose
between the English and the Spaniards, and
the brutality of the drunken English soldiers
was so insupportable, that the Spaniards often
welcomed the French troops, who were under
far better discipline, as their deliverers. Sir
Archibald Alison, in his account of these
scenes, says :

" The native and uneradicable vice of north-
ern climates, drunkenness, here appeared in


Testimony of Alison. Napoleon at Afttorga.

frightful colors. The great wine-vaults of
Bembibre proved more fatal than the sword of
the enemy. And when the gallant rear-guard,
which preserved its ranks unbroken, closed up
the array, they had to force their way through
a motley crowd of English and Spanish sol-
diers, stragglers and marauders, who reeled out
of the houses in disgusting crowds, or lay
stretched upon the roadside, an easy prey to
the enemy's cavalry, which thundered in close

" The condition of the army became daily
more deplorable ; the frost had been succeeded
by the thaw ; rain and sleet fell in torrents ; the
roads were almost broken up ; the horses foun-
dered at every step; the few artillery- wagons
which had kept up fell, one by one, to the
fear; and being immediately blown up to pre-
vent their falling into the hands of the enemy,
gave melancholy tokens, by the sound of their
explosions, of the work of destruction which
was going on."

On the 2d of January Napoleon's advance-
guard had reached Astorga. Notwithstanding
the condition of the roads, and all the efforts
of the retreating foe, an army of forty thousand
men had marched two hundred miles in ten


A new Coalition.

days. It was a cold and stormy winter morn-
ing when Napoleon left Astorga, in continu-
ance of the pursuit. He had proceeded but a
few miles on horseback, when he was overta-
ken by a courier from France, bearing impor-
tant dispatches. The Emperor alighted by the
roadside, and, standing by a fire which his at-
tendants kindled, read the documents. His of-
ficers gathered anxiously around him, watching
the expression of his countenance as he read.

The dispatches informed Napoleon that
Austria had entered into a new alliance with
England to attack him on the north, and that
the probability was, that Turkey, exasperated
by Napoleon's alliance with Kussia, would also
be drawn into the coalition. It was also
stated that, though Alexander personally was
strong in his friendship for Napoleon, the Rus-
sian nobles, hostile to the principle of equal
rights, inscribed upon the French banners, were
raising an opposition of such daily increasing
strength, that it was feared the Czar also might
be compelled to join in the new crusade against

To conduct the war in Spain, Napoleon had
withdrawn one hundred thousand of his best
troops from the Khine. * His frontiers were


Anxiety of the Emperor.

thus greatly exposed. For a moment it was
said that Napoleon was staggered by the blow.
The vision of another European war, France
struggling single-handed against all the com-
bined powers of the Continent, appalled him.
Slowly, sadly he rode back to Astorga, deeply
pondering the awful question. There was
clearly but one of two courses before him. He
must either ignobly abandon the conflict in fa-
vor of equality of rights, and allow the chains
of the old feudal despotism to be again riveted
upon France, and all the new governments in
sympathy with France, or he must struggle
manfully to the end. All around him were
impressed with the utter absorption of his
mind in these thoughts. As he rode back
with his retinue, not a word was spoken. Na-
poleon seldom asked advice.

Soon his decision was formed, and all de-
jection and hesitation disappeared. It was
necessary for him immediately to direct all his
energies toward the Ehine. He consequently
relinquished the personal pursuit of the Eng-
lish ; and commissioning Marshal Soult to
press them with all vigor, he prepared to return
to France. Rapidly retracing his steps to Val-
ladolid, he spent five days in giving the most


New Year's WUhes. Napoleon's Response.

minute directions for the movements of the
army, and for the administration of affairs in
Spain. In those few days he performed an
amount of labor which seems incredible. He
had armies in France, Spain, Italy, and Ger-
many, and he guided all their movements, even
to the minute details.

On the first day of the year Joseph had
written to Napoleon, and, in the expression of
those kindly sympathies which the advent of a
new year awakens, had said, " I pray your Maj-
esty to accept my wishes that, in the course of
this year, Europe, pacified by your efforts, may
render justice to your intentions."

Napoleon replied, " I thank you for what
you say relative to the new year. I do not
hope that Europe can this year be pacified.
So little do I hope it, that I have just issued a
decree for levying one hundred thousand men.
The rancor of England, the events of Constan-
tinople, every thing, in short, indicates that the
hour of rest and quiet is not arrived."

The Emperor, having finished his dispatch-
es at Valladolid, mounted his horse, and set out
for Paris. Mr. J. T. Headley thus describes
this marvellous ride :

" In the first five hours he rode the aston


Magnanimity of Napoleon.

ishing distance of eighty-five miles, or seven-
teen miles the hour. This wild gallop was long
remembered by the inhabitants of the towns
tnrough which the smoking cavalcade of the
Emperor passed. Belays of horses had been
provided on the road ; and no sooner did he ar-
rive at one post, than he flung himself on a fresh
horse, and, sinking his spurs in his flanks, dash-
ed away in headlong speed. Few who saw
that short figure, surmounted with a plain cha-
peau, sweep by on that day, ever forgot it.
His pale face was calm as marble, but his lips
were compressed, and his brow knit like iron ;
while his flashing eye, as he leaned forward,
still jerking impatiently at the bridle as if to
accelerate his speed, seemed to devour the dis-
tance. No one spoke, but the whole suite
strained forward in the breathless race. The
gallant chasseurs had never had so long and so
wild a ride before."

Napoleon had acted a very noble part
toward his brother. The masses of the Span-
ish people were very ignorant and fanatical.
The priests, wielding over them supernatural
terrors, controlled them at will. There were
certain reforms which were essential to the re-
generation of Spain. But these reforms would


Reforms introduced.

exasperate the priests, and, through them, the
people. Napoleon, anxious to save his brother
from the odium of these necessary measures,
took the responsibility of them upon himself.
He issued a series of decrees when he entered
Madrid as a conqueror, and by virtue of the
acknowledged rights of conquest, in which,
after proclaiming pardon for all political of-
fenses, he introduced the following reforms.

The execrable institution of the Inquisition
was abolished. The number of convents,
which had been thronged with indolent monks,
was reduced one-half. One-half of the proper-
ty of these abolished convents was appropri-
ated to the payment of the salary of the labor-
ing clergy. The other halt was set apart to
the payment of the public debt. The custom-
houses between the several provinces of the
kingdom, which had been a great source of na-
tional embarrassment, were removed, and im-
posts were collected only on the frontiers. All
feudal privileges were annulled.

These measures, of course, exasperated the
priests and the nobles. Unfortunately the peo-
ple were too ignorant to appreciate their full
value. As Joseph returned to Madrid, under
the protection of the arms of his imperial


Escape of Sir John Moore.

brother, though the bells rang merrily, and
pealing cannon uttered their voices of welcome,
and though the most respectable portion of the
middle class received him with satisfaction,
there was no enthusiasm among the populace,
and the clergy and the nobility received him
with suspicion and dislike. The Emperor,
upon his departure, had confided to Joseph the
command of the army in Spain. But the great
generals of Napoleon, ever ready to bow to the
will of the Emperor, whose superiority they all
recognized, yielded a reluctant obedience to Jo-
seph, whom they did not consider their superi-
or in the art of war.

Sir John Moore continued his precipitate
flight, vigorously pursued by Marshal Soult.
" There was never," says Napier, " so complete
an example of a disastrous retreat. Aban-
doning their wagons, blowing up their ammu-
nition, and strewing their path with the debris
of an utterly routed army, they finally, with
torn, bleeding, and greatly-diminished columns,
escaped to their ships."

The new coalition in Germany against Na-
poleon rendering it necessary for him to with-
draw a large part of his troops from Spain,
greatly encouraged the foes of the new re*-


Efforts of the British Government

gime. The British Government, animated by
its success in inducing Austria again to co-ope-
rate in an attack upon France, and sanguine in
the hope of drawing Russia and Turkey into the
coalition, which would surely bring the armies
of Prussia into the same line of battle, redoubled
its efforts in Spain and Portugal. Emissaries
were sent everywhere to rouse the populace.
Gold was lavished, and arms and ammunition
were transmitted by the British fleet to impor-
tant points.

A central junta was assembled at Seville.
It issued a proclamation, calling upon the peo-
ple everywhere to rise in guerrilla bands. The
whole male population was summoned to the
field. Death was the penalty denounced upon
all those who, by word or deed, favored the
French. Twenty thousand troops in Portugal
were taken under British pay, and placed un-
der British officers, so that, while nominally it
was a Portuguese army, it was in reality but a
British force of mercenaries. Numerous trans-
ports conveyed a large body of troops from Eng-
land under Sir Arthur Wellesley, which was
landed in Lisbon.

Where the French army had control, there
seemed to be a disposition, especially among


Testimony of Alison.

the most intelligent and opulent portion of the
people, to accept the new regime of Joseph.
The bitterest foe of Joseph will not deny that
the reforms which he was endeavoring to in-
troduce were admirable, and absolutely essen-
tial to the regeneration of Spain. The British
Government wished to restore the old regime
under Ferdinand; for that Government was
in sympathy with the British rule of aristocrat-
ic privilege. The French Government wished
to maintain the new rdgime under Joseph, be
cause that Government would bring Spain into
sympathy with France, in her defensive strug-
gle against the combined despotisms of Europe.
Popular opinion in Spain seemed now to be
upon one side, and again upon the other, ac-
cording to the presence of the different armies.
" At Madrid," says Alison, " Joseph reign-
ed with the apparent consent of the nation.
Registers having been open for the inscription
of those who were favorable to his govern-
ment, no less than twenty -eight thousand heads
of families in a few days enrolled themselves
And deputations from the Municipal Council,
the Council of the Indies, and all the incorpora-
tions, waited upon him at Valladolid, to entreat

that he would return to the capital and reas-


Fury of the Populace.

sume the royal functions, to which he at length

At Saragossa, on the other hand, Joseph
was opposed with persistence and bravery,
which has rendered the siege of Saragossa one

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 11 of 19)