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- The Companions of Jehu - 133/133 -


fifteen minutes the five thousand Austrian grenadiers who formed the mass were overthrown, dispersed, crushed, annihilated. They disappeared like smoke. General Zach and his staff, all that was left, were taken prisoners.

Then, in turn, the enemy endeavored to make use of his immense cavalry corps; but the incessant volleys of musketry, the blasting canister, the terrible bayonets, stopped short the charge. Murat was manoeuvring on the flank with two light-battery guns and a howitzer, which dealt death to the foe.

He paused for an instant to succor Roland and his nine hundred men. A shell from the howitzer fell and burst in the Austrian ranks; it opened a gulf of flame. Roland sprang into it, a pistol in one hand, his sword in the other. The whole Consular guard followed him, opening the enemy's ranks as a wedge opens the trunk of an oak. Onward he dashed, till he reached an ammunition wagon surrounded by the enemy; then, without pausing an instant, he thrust the hand holding the pistol through the opening of the wagon and fired. A frightful explosion followed, a volcano had burst its crater and annihilated those around it.

General Elsnitz's corps was in full flight; the rest of the Austrian army swayed, retreated, and broke. The generals tried in vain to stop the torrent and form up for a retreat. In thirty minutes the French army had crossed the plain it had defended foot by foot for eight hours.

The enemy did not stop until Marengo was reached. There they made a vain attempt to reform under fire of the artillery of Carra-Saint-Cyr (forgotten at Castel-Ceriolo, and not recovered until the day was over); but the Desaix, Gardannes, and Chamberlhac divisions, coming up at a run, pursued the flying Austrians through the streets.

Marengo was carried. The enemy retired on Petra Bona, and that too was taken. Then the Austrians rushed toward the bridge of the Bormida; but Carra-Saint-Cyr was there before them. The flying multitudes sought the fords, or plunged into the Bormida under a devastating fire, which did not slacken before ten that night.

The remains of the Austrian army regained their camp at Alessandria. The French army bivouacked near the bridge. The day had cost the Austrian army four thousand five hundred men killed, six thousand wounded, five thousand prisoners, besides twelve flags and thirty cannon.

Never did fortune show herself under two such opposite aspects as on that day. At two in the afternoon, the day spelt defeat and its disastrous consequences to Bonaparte; at five, it was Italy reconquered and the throne of France in prospect.

That night the First Consul wrote the following letter to Madame de Montrevel:

MADAME--I have to-day won my greatest victory; but it has cost me the two halves of my heart, Desaix and Roland.

Do not grieve, madame; your son did not care to live, and he could not have died more gloriously.

BONAPARTE.

Many futile efforts were made to recover the body of the young aide-de-camp: like Romulus, he had vanished in a whirlwind.

None ever knew why he had pursued death with such eager longing.

THE END


The Companions of Jehu - 133/133

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