Napoleonic Literature
Napoleon and His Marshals - Vol. I
Chapter III
MARSHAL AUGEREAU


His Early Life and Character— His Campaigns in Italy— Battle of Castiglione— Battle of Arcola— Revolution of the 18th Fructidor— Charge at Eylau— His Traitorous Conduct and Disgrace.


    THERE is very little pleasure in contemplating a character like that of Augereau, especially when one is led, from his rank and titles, to expect great qualities. Augereau had simple bravery, nothing more, to render him worthy of a place amid the Marshals of the Empire. He was not even a second-rate man in anything but courage; and there he had no superior. As a fierce fighter—one whose charge was like a thunderbolt, and whose tenacity in the midst of carnage and ruin nothing seemed able to shake—he was worthy to command beside Massena, Ney, Lannes, Davoust, and Murat—but there the equality ended. He owed his Marshal's baton not so much to his generalship, as to his having served in Bonaparte's first campaigns in Italy, and helped, by his bravery, to lay the foundation-stone of the young Corsican's fame. Napoleon, in the height of his power, did not forget the young Chiefs, with whom he won his first laurels, and to whose unsurpassed valor he owed the wondrous success of his first campaigns. It was with such men as Murat, Massena, Lannes, Victor, and Augereau that he conquered four armies, each large as his own. With all his genius, he could have accomplished so much with no other men. In those rapid and forced marches—those resistless onsets, and in that tireless activity, without which he was ruined—these men were equal to his wishes and his wants. Massena and Augereau were among the first of these fiery leaders, and astonished Europe by the brilliancy of their exploits. Bonaparte, in his letter to the Directory, calls him "the brave Augereau." At Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola, he won his ducal title, and his Marshal's staff.
    Born November 14, 1757, in the Faubourg St. Marceau, of Paris, the son of a grocer, Pierre-François Charles Augereau always retained the marks of his origin. Living in a democratic quarter of the city, and sprung from a democratic stock, he was as thorough a Jacobin as ever outraged humanity.
    Of an adventurous, ardent spirit, he left Paris when a mere youth, and entered the army of the King of Naples as a common soldier. Finding nothing to do, and apparently nothing to gain in the service, he left it in mingled disappointment and disgust. Poor and without friends, he taught fencing in Naples, as a means of support, and remained there till he was thirty-five years of age. But the all-powerful Revolution, which dragged into its vortex every stern and fierce spirit France possessed, soon hurried him into scenes more congenial to his tastes. Being compelled to leave Naples, in 1792, by the edict of the King, which forced all Frenchmen of Revolutionary principles out of the kingdom, he returned to Paris, and enlisted as a volunteer in the army of the Pyrenees. Here he had a clear field for his daring, and soon won himself a reputation that secured his rapid promotion. When he entered the army as a volunteer, he was thirty-five years of age— at thirty-eight he found himself brigadier-general, and in two years more general of division. Foremost in the place of danger—resistless in the onset, he had acquired a reputation for daring, that made him a fit companion for Napoleon in his Italian campaigns. Though so much older than the Commander-in-chief, he soon learned to bow to his superior genius, and followed him with a courage and fidelity that did not go unrewarded.
    I have often imagined the first interview between the young Bonaparte and the veteran generals of the Army of Italy. There were Rampon, Massena, and Augereau, crowned with laurels they had won on many a hard-fought field. Here was a young man, sent to them as their Commander-in-chief, only twenty-seven years of age. Pale, thin, with a stoop in his shoulders, his personal appearance indicated anything but the warrior. And what else had he to recommend him? He had directed some artillery successfully against Toulon, and quelled a mob in Paris, and that was all. He had no rank in civil matters—indeed, had scarcely been heard of—and now, a mere stripling, without experience, never having conducted an army in his life, he appears before the two scarred generals, Massena and Augereau, both nearly forty years of age, as their Commander-in-chief. When called to pay their first visit to him, on his arrival, they were utterly amazed at the folly of the Directory. The war promised to be a mere farce. Young Bonaparte, whose quick eye detected the impression he had made on them, soon by the firmness of his manner and his vigor of thought, modified their feelings. At the Council of War, called to discuss the proper mode of commencing hostilities, Rampon volunteered a great deal of sage advice—recommended circumspection and prudence, and spoke of the experienced generals that were opposed to them. Bonaparte listened, full of impatience, till he was through; and then replied, in his impetuous manner: "Permit me, gentlemen, with all due deference to your excellent observations, to suggest some new ideas. The art of war, rest assured, is yet in its infancy. For many ages men have made war in a theatrical and effeminate manner. Now is not the time for enemies mutually, to appoint a place of combat, and advancing, with their hats in hand, say, 'Gentlemen, will you have the goodness to fire.' We must cut the enemy in pieces—precipitate ourselves like a torrent on their battalions, and grind them to powder; that is, bring back war to its primitive state—fight as Alexander and Cæsar did. Experienced generals conduct the troops opposite to us!—So much the better, so much the better! It is not their experience that will avail them against me. Mark my words, they will soon burn their books on tactics, and know not what to do. . . . The system I adopt is favorable to the profession of arms; every soldier becomes a hero; for when men are launched forward with impetuosity, there is no time for reflection, and they will do wonders. Yes, gentlemen, the first onset of the Italian army will give birth to a new epoch in military affairs. As for us, we must hurl ourselves on the foe like a thunderbolt, and smite like it. Disconcerted by our tactics, and not daring to put them in execution, they will fly before us as the shades of night before the uprising sun." The manner and tone in which this was said, and that eloquence, too, which afterward so frequently electrified the soldiers, took the old generals by surprise, and Augereau and Massena turned to each other with significant looks; and Rampon, after he had gone out, remarked, "Here is a man that will yet cut out work for government."
    Such feelings and bold projects suited well the impetuous and daring Augereau, and Bonaparte could not have had a better general in the kind of war he was to wage. Where it was to be marching all night, and fighting all day, for days in succession—and one must be equal to three, by the rapidity of his movements and the force of his onsets—Augereau was just the man. There was little room for the exhibition of military tactics on the part of the several commanders. The whole theater of war was under the immediate inspection of Bonaparte. He planned and directed everything, without going through even the form of calling a council of war. His officers had simply to obey orders—and to a man like Augereau, who could never reason, but was great in action—this was the very field for him to win fame in. There was little room for mistakes, except on the field of battle, and he made few there. Tell him to storm such a battery, cross such a river, in the midst of a murderous fire, or force such a wing of the army, and he would do it, if it was to be done. His soldiers loved him with devotion, and would follow him into any danger. His activity and rapidity of motion, together with his tireless energy also rendered him a powerful ally to Bonaparte. In campaigns where such velocity of movement was necessary, in order to compensate for numbers, that the army seemed endowed with wings, flying from point to point, to the utter astonishment of the enemy, and an endurance was demanded that could cope with that of Bonaparte, who seemed made of iron, Augereau was at home. Thus, in the first battle of Montenotte, we find him fighting beside the young Corsican, and, at the close of the battle, left in command, with instructions to renew the attack in the night. But not yet fully understanding the spirit that headed the army, he neglected to obey the order, and hence lost a great advantage. A few days after, he assailed the Piedmontese, at Millesimo, and won that bloody battle. With such fury did he charge them, and so terrible was the shock, that every pass leading into Piedmont was forced; and in the hurry and tumult of the overthrow, their general was driven, for self-preservation, with ten thousand men, into an old and impregnable castle. Around this structure Augereau formed his columns, and marched boldly up to carry it by assault. Then commenced one of those struggles of knightly days. The assailants rained down Stones and rocks, and missiles of every description, which bore away whole companies at a time. Amid the cries and shouts of the assailants, and the falling of stones, the combat raged, till night closed the scene. In the morning, Provera, the Piedmontese commander, was compelled to surrender.
    Piedmont was humbled, and entered into a treaty with Bonaparte. In the two engagements at Castiglione, he fought one alone, and one with Bonaparte; and earned the title of Duke of Castiglione, which the Emperor afterward bestowed on him. Bonaparte advanced with Massena on Conato [sic], and sent Augereau to drive the Austrians from the heights of Castiglione. The latter had driven General Valette from them the day before; and Augereau was sent to retake them. Valette, though he fought with an obstinacy that would have honored an Austrian, had not resisted with the courage that must animate the Army of Italy, if it would not be lost. It was no common firmness that could resist the successive shocks to which it was exposed. While one was compelled to fight two, and as he beat them, ever fight other two—a courage and tenacity were needed that no ordinary assault could overcome. Bonaparte, in his fierce rides to and fro to different parts of the army, had killed five horses in a few days. He himself had planned the campaigns—fought at the head of the columns—marched all night, and battled all next day—bivouacked with the common soldier, and eaten his coarse bread—passed sleepless nights and anxious days—and to have an important post yielded because assailed by superior force was an example which, if followed, would insure his overthrow—and he made an example of Valette to the whole army. He broke him in presence of his own troops and all the officers; 'thus stamping him with everlasting disgrace. He wished to impress on his officers and men, that he expected desperate deeds of them, and nothing else would satisfy him. No sooner was this done, than he sent Augereau to retake the lost heights. Burning with rage at the disgrace Valette had brought on the French arms, he departed with exultation on his dangerous mission. Never would he be broke in the presence of his soldiers for want of courage. Bonaparte might break his sword above his grave—but never fix the stain of cowardice on his name. He reached Castiglione as Bonaparte arrived at Lonato. Burning with impatience, he formed his men into columns, and rushed to the assault. Then commenced one of the most terrible days of Augereau's life. Placing himself at the head of his troops, he moved up the slope, and entered the storm of grape-shot that swept the hill-side. His smitten columns staggered before it—then closed up the rent ranks, and marched, with a shout of defiance, forward. But when they came within range of the musketry also, the double storm was too severe to withstand; and they recoiled before it. Augereau rallied them again to the attack, and the brave fellows joyfully entered the destructive fire over the dead bodies of their companions; but the overwhelming force of such superior numbers, and such commanding and powerful batteries was too much for human energy and again the army slowly and reluctantly swung back its bleeding, mangled form down the hill. Augereau, begrimed with powder and smoke, and enraged at the defeats he endured, seemed to court death. Where the balls fell thickest, there was he fighting in front of his men; and where the storm raged fiercest he was seen sternly breasting it. Again and again did he lead his exhausted and diminished army to the perilous assault; and there, in the midst of whole companies that fell at every discharge, cheer on the soldiers. Amid the dead and the dying, he moved that day like a spirit of the infernal world. He seemed impervious to bullets; while the fierce purpose of his heart, to carry those heights or leave his crushed army and his own body upon them, imparted to his aspect and his movements a desperation that told his men that victory or annihilation was before them. For the last time did he lead them to the assault—the heights were carried, amid deafening cheers—and the French standards waved from the summit. Augereau's brow cleared up; and, as he
looked off from the spot of victory, he saw Bonaparte hastening to his relief. The heart of this veteran swelled with pride as he received the commendations of the young commander-in-chief. Bonaparte never forgot this battle; and years after, when a captive on the isle of St. Helena, he said, "Ah! that was the most brilliant day of Augereau's life."

BATTLE OF CASTIGLIONE.

    A few days after the second battle of Castiglione was fought, and Italy again put up as the mighty stake. The two armies stood perpendicular to a range of hills that crossed the plain on Bonaparte's left. On these heights the left wing of the French and the right of the Austrians rested, while the two armies stretched in parallel lines out into the plain. All night long had Bonaparte been riding among his troops to arrange them for the coming conflict, and when daylight first broke over the eastern hills, he saw Serruerier's division approaching the field of battle. The action then commenced on the heights where Massena commanded. The two armies, inactive on the plain below, turned their eyes upon the hillside where volumes of smoke were rising in the morning air; and the incessant roll of musketry amid strains of martial music, told where their companions were struggling in the encounter of death. Augereau commanded the center in the plain, and as he watched the firing along the heights, his impatient spirit could scarcely brook the inaction to which he was doomed. At length he received the welcome orders to charge. The onset was tremendous, and though the Austrians—being superior in numbers by one-third—resisted bravely, they were at length forced to yield to the shock. The whole line along the heights and through the plain bent backward in the struggle, and finally turned in full retreat. The victory was in the hands of the French, but the soldiers were too weary to urge the pursuit. The sun was stooping to the western horizon when the combat was done, and the exhausted army slept on the field of battle. For days they had marched and combated without cessation, and humble endurance could go no further. Even Bonaparte was worn out, for his slender frame had been tasked to the utmost, and his thin features looked laggard and wan. He had galloped from division to division over the country, superintending every movement and directing every advance; for he would trust no one with his orders; since the slightest mistake would ruin him. Nothing but lofty genius, combined with ceaseless energy and the most tireless activity, could have saved his army. It is said that during these six days he never took off his boots, or even lay down. A week of such mental and physical excitement, without one moment's interval of repose, was enough to shatter the most iron constitution; and it is no wonder he is found writing to the Directory that his strength is gone, and all is gone but his courage. With thirty thousand men he had, these six days, defeated sixty thousand—killed and taken prisoners two-thirds the number of his own army, and astonished the world by his achievements.
    The next day Augereau was pressing after the flying enemy, and entered Verona in triumph. A few weeks after he and Massena fought their way into Bassano together through the fire of the enemy, leaving the ground without covered with the dead. Bonaparte arrived at night on the field of battle, and as he was spurring his horse through the corpses that strewed the ground, a dog leaped out from under the cloak of his dead master, and barked furiously at him. He would now lick his unconscious master, then stop to bark at Napoleon, and again return to his caresses. The silence of the mournful scene broken so abruptly by this faithful dog—the strength of his attachment outliving that of all other friends, and showing itself here on the field of the dead—and the picture of that affectionate creature lavishing its unheeded caresses on the hand that should feed it no more—produced an impression on his heart that he never forgot, and affected him more than that of any other battle scene of his life. But perhaps Augereau never appeared to greater advantage than at the

BATTLE OF ARCOLA.

    Bonaparte, wearied by continual fighting—exhausted by his very victories—was with his army of fifteen thousand men at Verona, when a fresh army of more than thirty thousand suddenly appeared before the town. His position was desperate, and his ruin apparently inevitable. The soldiers murmured, saying, "After destroying two armies, we are expected to destroy also those from the Rhine." Complaints and discouragements were on every side; but in this crisis, Napoleon, without consulting any one, took one of those sudden resolutions that seem the result of inspiration. In the rear of the Austrians was a large marsh, crossed by two long causeways, and on these he determined to place his army. Crossing the Adige twice during the night, the morning saw his army in two divisions,—one under Massena, and the other under Augereau,—stretched in two massive columns on these two dykes, while on every side of them was a deep marsh. This daring and consummate stroke, none but the genius of Bonaparte would ever have conceived, or dared to have adopted, if proposed. Along these narrow causeways numbers gave no advantage; everything depended on the courage and firmness of the heads of the columns. With Augereau and Massena to lead on his own, he had no doubt of success. Augereau, leading his column along the causeway on which he was posted, came up to the Adige and bridge of Arcola—on the opposite side of which was the town of Arcola—and attempted to force it; but the tremendous fire that swept it almost annihilated the head of the column, and it fell back. It was then he performed the daring deed, which Bonaparte on his arrival imitated. Seeing his men recoil before the fire, he seized a pair of colors, and bidding his men follow after, rushed on the bridge and planted them in the midst of the iron storm. With a loud and cheering shout, the brave troops rushed to the charge; but nothing could withstand that murderous fire. The head of the column sank on the bridge, and Augereau himself, overthrown, was borne back in the refluent tide of his followers.
    Soon after, the Austrians, under Mitrouski, attacked him in turn upon the dyke; but after a fierce struggle he repulsed them, and chasing them over the bridge, again attempted to pass it. But though the column advanced with the utmost intrepidity into the volcano that blazed at the farther extremity, the fire was too severe to withstand, and it again recoiled, and the soldiers threw themselves down behind the dyke to escape the bullets. At this critical juncture, Bonaparte, who deemed the possession of Arcola of vital importance, came up on a furious gallop. Springing from his horse, he hastened to the soldiers lying along the dyke, and asking them if they were the conquerors of Lodi, seized a standard, as Augereau had done, and exclaiming, "Follow your General!" advanced through a perfect hurricane of grape-shot to the center of the bridge, and planted it there. The brave grenadiers pressed with level bayonets close after their intrepid leader; but, unable to endure the tempest of fire and of lead which the hotly worked battery hurled in their faces, they seized Bonaparte in their arms, and trampling over the dead and dying, came rushing back through the smoke of battle. But the Austrians pressed close after the disordered column, and drove it into the marsh in the rear, where Bonaparte was left up to his arms in water. But the next moment, finding their beloved chief was gone, the soldiers cried out, over the roar of battle, "Forward, to save your General!" Pausing in their flight, they wheeled and charged the advancing enemy, and driving them back over the morass, bore off in triumph the helpless Napoleon. In this deadly encounter of the heads of columns, and successive advances and repulses, the day wore away, and the shades of a November night parted the combatants. The Austrians occupied Arcola, the French retired to Ronco, or sank to rest in the middle of the causeways they bad held with such firmness during the day. The smoke of the guns spread itself like a mist over the marsh, amid which the dead and dying lay together. In the morning the strife again commenced on this strange field of battle—two causeways in the midst of a marsh. The Austrians advanced in two columns along them, till they reached the center, when the French charged with the bayonet, and routed them with prodigious slaughter—hurling them in the shock by crowds, from the dyke into the marsh. The second day passed as the first, and when night returned the roar of artillery ceased, and Bonaparte slept again on the field of battle. The third morning broke over this dreadful scene, and the diminished, wearied armies roused themselves for a last great effort. Massena, charging on the run, cleared his dyke; while the left-hand one, after a desperate encounter, was also swept of the enemy, and Arcola evacuated. Bonaparte, now thinking the enemy sufficiently disheartened and reduced to allow him to hazard an engagement in the open field, deployed his army into the plain across the Alpon, where the two armies drew up in order of battle. Before the signal for the onset, he resorted to a stratagem, in order to give force to his attack. He sent twenty-five trumpeters through a marsh of reeds that reached to the left wing of the Austrians, with orders to sound the charge the moment the combat became general. He then ordered Massena and Augereau to advance. With an intrepid step they moved to the attack, but were met with a firm resistance, when all at once the Austrians heard a loud blast of trumpets on their flank, as if a whole division of cavalry was rushing to the charge. Terror-stricken at the sudden appearance of this new foe, they gave way and fled. At the same time the French garrison of Legnagno, in the rear, issuing forth, by order of Napoleon, and opening their fire upon the retiring ranks, completed the disorder, and the bloody battle of Arcola was won. Augereau and Massena were the two heroes of this hard-fought field.
    This was in November—the next January the battle of Rivoli took place, and while Napoleon and Massena were struggling on the heights, Augereau was pressing, the rear guard of the Austrians, who had come between him and the blockading force of Mantua. He had taken 1500 prisoners, and fourteen cannon, and was still straining every effort to arrest the danger that was threatening the troops around the town, when Bonaparte arrived from the field of victory with reinforcements; and Mantua fell.
    In these astounding victories, Augereau appears as one of the chief actors. When all the other generals were wounded, he and Massena stood, the two pillars of Napoleon's fortune. To carry out successfully his system of tactics—requiring such great activity, firmness, and heroism—Augereau was all he could wish. Beloved by his soldiers, he could hurl them into any danger, and hold them firm against the most overwhelming numbers.
    After the fall of Mantua he was sent to Paris to present to the Directory sixty stands of colors, the fruits of the recent victories. His heroic conduct had paved the way for a cordial reception; and the Directory had already honored him, by presenting to him and Bonaparte the colors each had carried at Arcola, at the head of his grenadiers, and planted on the center of the bridge in the midst of the fire.
    The presentation of the colors was a magnificent sight. They were carried by sixty old veterans, who bore them along with the pride and martial bearing of youthful heroes. Augereau placed his father and mother beside him, notwithstanding their low origin; while one of his brothers acted as his aide-de-camp. The son had returned covered with glory, and they were called in to share it.
    The next June he was again sent to Paris for a double purpose: first, and chiefly, to get him out of the army, where his violent republican principles were fomenting disorder. With peace and idleness, came the discussion of political subjects among the soldiers, and Augereau showed himself a thorough Jacobin. The second object was, to sustain the Directory, which was threatened with overthrow. Augereau was delighted with this mission; for he loved the strife of factions as much as he did the combat of the field, though much less fitted for it. He made himself ridiculous at once. To be in Paris, which he first left a poor boy, as a victorious general—flattered on every side by eulogies and public entertainments—turned his head and he went about bragging of his exploits, and boasting that he had taught Bonaparte the art of war—indeed originated those brilliant plans to which the latter owed his victories. He frightened his best friends, all but Barras, who liked to see him among the Jacobins, uttering his ultra-revolutionary principles. There was no taming him by reason, for Augereau was incapable of serious thought, and so they approached him through his vanity. At length he became a little more circumspect, and was appointed to the command of the 17th Military Division, of Paris. As Commander-in-chief, he soon played an important part in the political affairs of the capital. The Revolution of the 18th Fructidor was effected by him. All had been prepared on the evening of the 17th, and at midnight the inhabitants of Paris were alarmed by seeing twelve thousand soldiers, with Augereau at their head, marching toward the palace of the Tuileries. There was no commotion, no apparent cause for this extraordinary military display; yet all night long was heard the steady tramp of soldiers, and the heavy rumbling of artillery over the pavements. At length a solitary cannon, the signal gun, sent its roar over the breathless city, calling to mind the nights when the loud peal of the tocsin, and the beat of the alarm-drum, roused up the multitude to scenes of violence and blood. Immediately the troops approached the gates of the palace of the Tuileries, and ordered them to be opened. The guards refused, and there was preparation for resistance, when Augereau appeared with his staff.
    Ramel, the commandant, notwithstanding the defection among his troops, still showed a disposition to resist, when Augereau thus addressed him Commandant Ramel, do you recognize me Chief of the 17th Military Division?" "Yes," replied Ramel. "Well, then, as your superior officer, I command you to place yourself under arrest." He immediately obeyed. At six o'clock in the morning, the Deputies were prisoners, and the Revolution effected.
    For the management of this affair, which Augereau attributed to his own cleverness, he expected and sought a seat in the Directory. He expostulated and threatened, but the Directors had used him all they wished, and they would not call him to sit among them. He had no other resource left, but to get a majority of the vote of the Councils in his favor. Failing in this, also, he became turbulent and violent; and finally, as a last resort, the Directory, to get rid of him, appointed him to the command of the army of Germany, a post left vacant by the death of General Hoche. Enacting the fool here, in his style of living, and the outward pretensions he exhibited, he finally alarmed the Directory by the Jacobinical principles he was disseminating in the army, and the discontent he spread among the inhabitants; and was deprived of his command, under the pretext of sending him to Perpignan, to collect an army that was destined for Portugal. This appointment was a mere farce, and Augereau was to all intents disgraced. In 1799, he was elected, by the department of the Upper Garonne, as a member of the Council of Five Hundred.
    When Bonaparte returned from Italy, Augereau withdrew from him, and during the revolution of the 18th of Brumaire, by which the Directory was overthrown, and the power of France passed into the hands of the First Consul, he stood ready to take advantage of any favorable movement to place himself at the head of the troops, and overwhelm the hero of Egypt and his friends. As things began to grow dark around Napoleon, in that most critical day of his life, he determined to go to the two councils with his staff. He met Augereau on the way. The latter said to him sarcastically, "There, you have got yourself into a pretty plight." "It was worse at Arcola," was the brief reply of Bonaparte.
    The establishment of the Consular government, and the subsequent brilliant campaign of Marengo, wrought a wonderful change in Augereau's republican principles, and he was glad to pay court to Napoleon; and, for his timely conversion, was restored to favor. In 1805, '6, in Austria and Prussia, he exhibited his old valor. At Jena, especially, he showed himself worthy to combat beside his former comrades in Italy. Afterward at Golymin, Lechocqzin, and Landsberg, though fifty years of age, he evinced the impetuosity and firmness of his early days. His political ambition bad been given to the winds, as he once more found himself on the field where glory was to be won.
    The next year, at the battle of Eylau, he commenced the action, and exhibited there one of those heroic deeds which belong to the age of chivalry, rather than to our more practical times.

CHARGE AT EYLAU.

The night previous to the battle, he had lain tossing on his uneasy couch—burned with fever, and tortured by rheumatic pains that deprived him almost of consciousness. But at daylight, the thunder of cannon shook the field on which he lay. The tremendous batteries on both sides had commenced their fire, making the earth tremble under their explosions as if a volcano had opened on the plain. Augereau lay and listened for a while to the stern music his soul had so often beaten time to—then hastily springing from his feverish bed called for his horse. His attendants, amazed at this sudden energy, stood stupefied at the strange order; but the fierce glance of the chieftain told them that he was not to be disobeyed. His battle-steed was brought, and the sick and staggering warrior with difficulty vaulted to the saddle. Feeling his strength giving way, and that he was unable to keep his seat, he ordered his servants to bring straps and bind him on. They obeyed and strapped him firmly in his place, when, plunging his spurs into his steed, he flew, in a headlong gallop, to the head of his corps. His sudden appearance among his soldiers animated every heart. The two armies were in battle array—the trumpets sounded, and amid the furious beat of drums and roar of cannon, Soult poured his mighty columns on the center, while Augereau, at the head of his sixteen thousand men, charged, like fire, on the left. Whole ranks went down at every discharge; for the heavy shots tore through Augereau's dense masses with frightful effect. Still the columns closed over the huge gaps made in them and pressed forward to the assault. But suddenly, while Augereau was cheering on his men, and straining every nerve to make headway against the desolating batteries, a snow squall darkened the air, and swept with the rush of a whirlwind over the two armies, blotting out the very heavens. So thick and fierce was the driving storm, that Augereau could not see two rods ahead of him. Both armies were snatched from his sight in an instant, and even of his own men none but those directly about him could be seen. In a moment the ground was white with snow; while it sifted over the columns as if silently weaving their funeral shroud. Baffled and confused, not knowing which way to move, they staggered blindly over the field. Still the Russian cannon, previously trained on the spot, played furiously through the storm. Unable to see even the blaze of the discharge, these brave soldiers would hear the muffled explosions in the impenetrable gloom, and then behold their ranks mowed through, and mangled, as if a falling rock had crushed among them. In the midst of this awful carnage-enveloped by the blinding, driving snow, they were suddenly assailed on both sides by infantry and cavalry. In the midst of the uproar of nearly a thousand cannon, Augereau could not hear the tread of the infantry, or the tramp of the cavalry, and was wholly unaware of their approach. The Russians had marked the course of the columns before the snow squall wrapped them from sight, and now advanced on both sides to crush them to pieces. Without warning or preparation, the French soldiers saw the long lances of the Cossacks emerge from the thick storm, in a serried line, in their very faces; and in the twinkling of an eye, those wild horsemen were trampling through their ranks. Before this terrible tide of cavalry and infantry the columns sank as if engulfed in the earth. The hurried commands and shouts of Augereau, were never heard, or heard in vain. Still bound to his steed, he spurred among the disordered troops—striving by his voice and gestures, and more than all by his daring example, to restore the battle. But wounded and bleeding, he only galloped over a field of fugitives flying in every direction, while the Cossacks and Russian cavalry sabered them down without mercy. Of the sixteen thousand, only fifteen hundred found their ranks again. Trampling down the dead and the dying, the victorious enemy burst with loud hurrahs into Eylau, and even into the presence of Napoleon himself, and nearly made him prisoner. It was to arrest this sudden disorder, that Murat, with his fourteen thousand cavalry, backed by the Imperial Guard, was ordered to charge.
    The wounded Augereau was left without a corps to command, and sent back to Paris, in order to recover his health—the author of the "Camp and Court of Napoleon" says—"in disgrace to gratify a fit of spleen." Says that author, "Enraged at the indecisive result of the day, Napoleon wreaked his spleen on the marshal, and sent him home in disgrace." Whatever might be the disgrace, the cause here assigned is a gratuitous falsehood. In Napoleon's bulletin home—giving an account of the battle of Eylau—he speaks of Augereau three times:-first, to describe the sudden snow-squall that blinded his army, causing it to lose its direction, and grope about for half an hour in uncertainty; second, to make mention of his wound; and, finally, to say, "The wound of Marshal Augereau was a very unfavorable accident, as it left his corps, in the very heat of the battle, without a leader to direct it." In a bulletin dated nineteen days after, Augereau is again mentioned in the following terms: "À la battaille d'Eylau le Maréchal Augereau, couvert de rheumatismes, était malade et avait à peine connoisance; mais le cannon reveille les braves: il vole au galop à la tête de son corps, apres s'être fait attaches sur son cheval. Il a été constantement exposé au plus grand feu, et a même été légèrement blessé. L'Empereur vient de l'autoriser à rentrer en France pour y soigner sa santé."* This is an unique mode of venting one's spleen on a man.
    Two years after he was appointed to supersede St. Cyr in Spain, then besieging Gerona. Taken sick in his route, it was some time before he assumed the command of the army, and he even delayed it after he was recovered. He saw that the service was to be a harassing one, requiring great efforts, without yielding much glory. At length, however, he took the command of the siege, and humanely offered an armistice of a month, provided the inhabitants would surrender at the termination of it, should no army come to their relief. They refusing this proposal, he pressed the siege and reduced the town. His whole management, however, in the Peninsula—his foolish proclamations, and useless cruelties, and failures—show the little real strength of character he possessed. He was soon recalled. While Napoleon was engaged in the Russian expedition, Augereau remained stationed at Berlin. Although an admirable leader of a division, and brave in the hour of battle, Napoleon found him unfit to direct an army or to be entrusted with weighty matters in a great campaign. The truth is, Augereau's rank as marshal entitled him to a command he was not able to fill; a good general, he made a bad marshal. Nevertheless, in the last struggle to save the tottering empire of France, he fought with his accustomed valor. Especially at Leipzic he appears in his former strength and daring. Hastening by forced marches to the city, scattering the enemy from his path as he came, he arrived in time to strike once more for Napoleon and his throne. The next year the Emperor entrusted him with the defence of Lyons, with the order to hold it to the last extremity. Arriving at the city, he found there only seven hundred regular troops and a thousand National Guards, while twenty thousand Austrians were marching toward it. Knowing he could not defend the city with this feeble force, he hastened to Valence in the south, to bring up reinforcements. For a while, though fifty-seven years old, he exhibited the vigor of his early campaigns. He wrote to Napoleon, demanding help, while at the same time he strained every nerve to strengthen himself. He sent a thousand men in post carriages from Valence in a single day. This was the last spark, however, of the old fire; for though reinforced by Napoleon till his army numbered twenty thousand men, he did not follow up his successes as he ought, and contributed nothing in the desperate struggle the Emperor was making for his throne. The latter wished Augereau to hover on the rear of the allied army, while he dashed against it in front; but all his orders to that effect were powerless to remove the torpor that had seized his energies. He said he was afraid to trust his troops, as they were inexperienced soldiers, etc. Napoleon, in reply, told him to forget his age, and think of the days of glory when he fought at Castiglione. He urged him to move his troops together into one column, and march into Switzerland. Said Clarke, writing in the name of the Emperor, in reply to his complaint of the meager equipments of his soldiers, "He desires me to tell you that the corps of Gerard, which his done such great things under his eyes, is composed entirely of conscripts half naked. He has at this moment four thousand National Guards in his army with round hats, with peasants' coats and waistcoats, and without knapsacks, armed with all sorts of muskets, on whom he puts the greatest value; he only wishes he had thirty thousand of them." But the appeal was all in vain; and while the knell of the empire was tolling Augereau remained inactive and useless. At length, however, he seemed to rouse himself for a moment, and obeying Napoleon's orders, marched on Geneva, and defeated the Austrians before the town. Compelled, however, to retire, he retreated toward Lyons, and at Limonet fought his last battle. It was brave and worthy of his character; but though he left nearly three thousand of the enemy dead on the field, while he lost but two thousand, he was compelled to retire, and evacuate Lyons, retreating toward Valence.
    At the latter place, a proclamation was issued by the inhabitants on Napoleon's abdication, loading the fallen Emperor with the most opprobrious epithets, and extolling Louis XVIII. as the idol of his country. To this atrocious proclamation Augereau's signature was affixed. On his way to Elba, Napoleon met Augereau unexpectedly near Valence, and an interview took place which, from the different versions given of it, furnishes a curious illustration of the historical contradictions connected with this period.
    Says the "Court and Camp of Napoleon": "Soon after this the ‘Fructidor General' and the ex-Emperor met at a short distance from Valence, as the latter was on his way to Elba. ‘I have thy proclamation,' said Napoleon, ‘thou hast betrayed me.' ‘Sire,' replied the marshal, ‘it is you who have betrayed France and the army, by sacrificing both to a frantic spirit of ambition.' ‘Thou hast chosen thyself a new master,' said Napoleon. ‘I have no account to render thee on that score,' replied the general. ‘Thou hast no courage,' replied Bonaparte. ‘ 'Tis thou hast none,' responded the general, and turned his back without any respect on his late master." This precious bit of dialogue is detailed with so much minuteness that one would incline to believe it, even against counter-statements, were it not for the falsehood it bears on its own face. The whole scene is unnatural, and to wind up with a charge of cowardice on the part of each is supremely ridiculous. For two men who had fought side by side at Lodi, Arcola, and Castiglione, and stormed together over so many battlefields, to accuse each other of cowardice at that late hour would be a child's play that Augereau might stoop to—but Napoleon never.
    Here is another account of this interview by Mr. Allison: "At noon on the following day, he accidentally met Augereau on the road, near Valence; both alighted from their carriages, and, ignorant of the atrocious proclamation, in which that marshal had so recently announced his conversion to the Bourbons, the Emperor embraced him, and they walked together on the road for a quarter of an hour in the most amicable manner. It was observed, however, that Augereau kept his helmet on his head as he walked along. A few minutes after, the Emperor entered Valence, and beheld the proclamation placarded on the walls." It need not be remarked that the latter is the more reliable account of the two. A great many of the incidents of Napoleon's life which have been gathered up by English writers are as fabulous as the first account of this interview between him and Augereau.
    Louis XVIII. rewarded him by making him Peer of France, and bestowing on him the Cross of St. Louis, and the command of the 14th Division in Normandy.
    On Napoleon's landing from Elba, Augereau was struck  with astonishment to find himself proclaimed by the Emperor as a traitor. He, however, made no reply, hoping by a seasonable conversion to extricate himself from the difficulties that surrounded him. Republican as he was,  he never allowed his principles to interfere with his self-interest nor his conscience with his safety. No sooner had Napoleon entered Paris in triumph than Augereau issued a proclamation to his soldiers, urging them once more to "march under the victorious wings of those immortal eagles which had so often conducted them to glory." Napoleon, who had never respected him, and after his infamous proclamation at Valence thoroughly despised him, paid no attention to this delicate compliment of his flexible marshal. Knowing him too thoroughly to trust him, and disdaining to molest him, he let the betrayer of two masters pass into silent neglect. Poor Augereau, robbed of all his plumes, retired to his country estate, where he remained till the second restoration, when he again sent in his protestations of devotion to the King. But there is a limit, even to a Bourbon's vanity; and, Louis turning a deaf ear on his solicitations and flattery, he again retired to his estate, where he died in June, 1816, of a dropsy in the chest.
    Augereau was essentially a mean man, though a brave one. He was a weak-headed, avaricious, selfish, boasting soldier, yet possessing courage that would not have disgraced the days of chivalry. His soldiers loved him, for he kept strict order and discipline among them, and exposed himself like the meanest of their number in the hour of danger. Without sufficient grasp of thought to form a plan requiring any depth of combination, or even intellect enough to comprehend one already furnished to his hand, he nevertheless surveyed a field of battle with imperturbable coolness, and his charge was like a falling thunderbolt.
    His want of education, and the early habits and associations he formed, were enough to spoil a man of even more strength of character than he possessed. He came under the influence of Napoleon's genius at too late an age to receive those impressions which so effectually remolded some of the younger lieutenants.



* At the battle of Eylau, Marshal Augereau, covered with rheumatism, lay sick, and almost without consciousness; but the sound of cannon awakens the brave. He flew on a gallop to the head of his corps, after having caused himself to be bound to his horse. He has been constantly exposed to the severest fire, and has been lightly wounded. The Emperor grants him permission to return to France to attend to his health.  Return to paragraph text.


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