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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 50/202 -


Scarcely had Moore formed this decision, when despatches arrived from Frere, the British agent at Madrid, stating that the Spaniards were about to defend the capital to the last extremity, and that Moore would be responsible for the ruin of Spain and the disgrace of England if he failed to advance to its relief. To the great joy of his soldiers, Moore gave orders for a forward march. The army advanced upon Valladolid, with the view of attacking the French upon their line of communication, while the siege of the capital engaged them in front. Baird was again ordered southwards. It was not until the 14th of December, ten days after Madrid had passed into the hands of the French, that Moore received intelligence of its fall. Neither the Spanish Government nor the British agent who had caused Moore to advance took the trouble to inform him of the surrender of the capital; he learnt it from an intercepted French despatch. From the same despatch Moore learnt that to the north of him, at Saldanha, on the river Carrion, there lay a comparatively small French force under the command of Soult. The information was enough for Moore, heart-sick at the mockery to which his army had been subjected, and burning for decisive action. He turned northwards, and marched against Soult, in the hope of surprising him before the news of his danger could reach Napoleon in the capital.

[Napoleon marches against Moore, Dec. 19.]

[Retreat of the English.]

[Corunna, Jan. 16, 1809.]

On the 19th of December a report reached Madrid that Moore had suspended his retreat on Portugal. Napoleon instantly divined the actual movement of the English, and hurried from Madrid against Moore at the head of 40,000 men. Moore had met Baird on the 20th at Mayorga; on the 23rd the united British divisions reached Sahagun, scarcely a day's march from Soult at Saldanha. Here the English commander learnt that Napoleon himself was on his track. Escape was a question of hours. Napoleon had pushed across the Guadarama mountains in forced marches through snow and storm. Had his vanguard been able to seize the bridge over the river Esla at Benavente before the English crossed it, Moore would have been cut off from all possibility of escape. The English reached the river first and blew up the bridge. This rescued them from immediate danger. The defence of the river gave Moore's army a start which rendered the superiority of Napoleon's numbers of little effect. For a while Napoleon followed Moore towards the northern coast. On the 1st of January, 1809, he wrote an order which showed that he looked upon Moore's escape as now inevitable, and on the next day he quitted the army, leaving to his marshals the honour of toiling after Moore to the coast, and of seizing some thousands of frozen or drunken British stragglers. Moore himself pushed on towards Corunna with a rapidity which was dearly paid for by the demoralisation of his army. The sufferings and the excesses of the troops were frightful; only the rear-guard, which had to face the enemy, preserved soldierly order. At length Moore found it necessary to halt and take up position, in order to restore the discipline of his army. He turned upon Soult at Lugo, and offered battle for two successive days; but the French general declined an engagement; and Moore, satisfied with having recruited his troops, continued his march upon Corunna. Soult still followed. On January 11th the English army reached the sea; but the ships which were to convey them back to England were nowhere to be seen. A battle was inevitable, and Moore drew up his troops, 14,000 in number, on a range of low hills outside the town to await the attack of the French. On the 16th, when the fleet had now come into harbour, Soult gave battle. The French were defeated at every point of their attack. Moore fell at the moment of his victory, conscious that the army which he had so bravely led had nothing more to fear. The embarkation was effected that night; on the next day the fleet put out to sea.

[Siege of Saragossa, Dec., 1808.]

[Napoleon leaves Spain, Jan 19, 1809.]

Napoleon quitted Spain on the 19th of January, 1809, leaving his brother Joseph again in possession of the capital, and an army of 300,000 men under the best generals of France engaged with the remnants of a defeated force which had never reached half that number. No brilliant victories remained to be won; no enemy remained in the field important enough to require the presence of Napoleon. Difficulties of transit and the hostility of the people might render the subjugation of Spain a slower process than the subjugation of Prussia or Italy; but, to all appearance, the ultimate success of the Emperor's plans was certain, and the worst that lay before his lieutenants was a series of wearisome and obscure exertions against an inconsiderable foe. Yet, before the Emperor had been many weeks in Paris, a report reached him from Marshal Lannes which told of some strange form of military capacity among the people whose armies were so contemptible in the field. The city of Saragossa, after successfully resisting its besiegers in the summer of 1808, had been a second time invested after the defeats of the Spanish armies upon the Ebro. [153] The besiegers themselves were suffering from extreme scarcity when, on the 22nd of January, 1809, Lannes took up the command. Lannes immediately called up all the troops within reach, and pressed the battering operations with the utmost vigour. On the 29th, the walls of Saragossa were stormed in four different places.

[Defeats of the Spaniards, March, 1809.]

According to all ordinary precedents of war, the French were now in possession of the city. But the besiegers found that their real work was only beginning. The streets were trenched and barricaded; every dwelling was converted into a fortress; for twenty days the French were forced to besiege house by house. In the centre of the town the popular leaders erected a gallows, and there they hanged every one who flinched from meeting the enemy. Disease was added to the horrors of warfare. In the cellars, where the women and children crowded in filth and darkness, a malignant pestilence broke out, which, at the beginning of February, raised the deaths to five hundred a day. The dead bodies were unburied; in that poisoned atmosphere the slightest wound produced mortification and death. At length the powers of the defenders sank. A fourth part of the town had been won by the French; of the townspeople and peasants who were within the walls at the beginning of the siege, it is said that thirty thousand had perished; the remainder could only prolong their defence to fall in a few days more before disease or the enemy. Even now there were members of the Junta who wished to fight as long as a man remained, but they were outnumbered. On the 20th of February what was left of Saragossa capitulated. Its resistance gave to the bravest of Napoleon's soldiers an impression of horror and dismay new even to men who had passed through seventeen years of revolutionary warfare, but it failed to retard Napoleon's armies in the conquest of Spain. No attempt was made to relieve the heroic or ferocious city. Everywhere the tide of French conquest appeared to be steadily making its advance. Soult invaded Portugal; in combination with him, two armies moved from Madrid upon the southern and the south-western provinces of Spain. Oporto fell on the 28th of March; in the same week the Spanish forces covering the south were decisively beaten at Ciudad Real and at Medellin upon the line of the Guadiana. The hopes of Europe fell. Spain itself could expect no second Saragossa. It appeared as if the complete subjugation of the Peninsula could now only be delayed by the mistakes of the French generals themselves, and by the untimely removal of that controlling will which had hitherto made every movement a step forward in conquest.

CHAPTER IX.

Austria preparing for war--The war to be one on behalf of the German Nation--Patriotic Movement in Prussia--Expected Insurrection in North Germany--Plans of Campaign--Austrian Manifesto to the Germans--Rising of the Tyrolese--Defeats of the Archduke Charles in Bavaria--French in Vienna--Attempts of Dörnberg and Schill--Battle of Aspern--Second Passage of the Danube--Battle of Wagram--Armistice of Znaim--Austria waiting for events--Wellesley in Spain--He gains the Battle of Talavera, but retreats--Expedition against Antwerp fails--Austria makes Peace--Treaty of Vienna--Real Effects of the War of 1809--Austria after 1809--Metternich-- Marriage of Napoleon with Marie Louise--Severance of Napoleon and Alexander--Napoleon annexes the Papal States, Holland, La Valais, and the North German Coast--The Napoleonic Empire: Its Benefits and Wrongs--The Czar withdraws from Napoleon's Commercial System--War with Russia imminent--Wellington in Portugal: Lines of Torres Vedras; Massena's Campaign of 1810, and retreat--Soult in Andalusia--Wellington's Campaign of 1810--Capture of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz--Salamanca.

[Austria preparing for war, 1808-9.]

Napoleon, quitting Spain in the third week of January, 1809, travelled to Paris with the utmost haste. He believed Austria to be on the point of declaring war; and on the very day of his arrival at the capital he called out the contingents of the Rhenish Federation. In the course of the next few weeks, however, he formed the opinion that Austria would either decline hostilities altogether, or at least find it impossible to declare war before the middle of May. For once the efforts of Austria outstripped the calculations of her enemy. Count Stadion, the earnest and enlightened statesman who had held power in Austria since the Peace of Presburg, had steadily prepared for a renewal of the struggle with France. He was convinced that Napoleon would soon enter upon new enterprises of conquest, and still farther extend his empire at the expense of Austria, unless attacked before Spain had fallen under his dominion. Metternich, now Austrian Ambassador at Paris, reported that Napoleon was intending to divide Turkey as soon as he had conquered Spain; and, although he advised delay, he agreed with the Cabinet at Vienna that Austria must sooner or later strike in self-defence. [154] Stadion, more sanguine, was only prevented from declaring war in 1808 by the counsels of the Archduke Charles and of other generals who were engaged in bringing the immense mass of new levies into military formation. Charles himself attached little value to the patriotic enthusiasm which, since the outbreak of the Spanish insurrection, had sprung up in the German provinces of Austria. He saw the approach of war with more apprehension than pleasure; but, however faint his own hopes, he laboured earnestly in creating for Austria a force far superior to anything that she had possessed before, and infused into the mass of the army that confident and patriotic spirit which he saw in others rather than felt in himself. By the beginning of March, 1809, Austria had 260,000 men ready to take the field.

[The war of 1809 to be a war for Germany.]

The war now breaking out was to be a war for the German nation, as the struggle of the Spaniards had been a struggle for Spain. The animated appeals of the Emperor's generals formed a singular contrast to the silence with which the Austrian Cabinet had hitherto entered into its wars. The Hapsburg sovereign now stood before the world less as the inheritor of an ancient empire and the representative of the Balance of Power than as the disinterested champion of the German race. On the part of the Emperor himself the language of devotion for Germany was scarcely more than ironical. Francis belonged to an age and to a system in which the idea of nationality had no existence; and, like other sovereigns, he regarded his possessions as a sort of superior property which ought to be defended by obedient domestic dogs against marauding foreign wolves. The same personal view of public affairs had hitherto satisfied the Austrians. It had been enough for them to be addressed as the dutiful children of a wise and affectionate father. The Emperor spoke the familiar Viennese dialect; he was as homely in his notions and his prejudices as any beerseller in his dominions; his subjects might see him at almost any hour of the day or night; and out of the somewhat tough material of his character popular imagination had no difficulty in framing an idol of parental geniality and


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