BATTLE OF DIRNSTEIN.
But in the campaign of Austerlitz, at the battle of Dirnstein, he appears in his most chivalric and determined character.
After the capitulation of Ulm, Napoleon continued his progress along the Danube, waiting the moment to strike a mortal blow at the enemy. The Austrians, hearing of the surrender of Mack, began to retreat toward Vienna, pressed by the victorious French. Napoleon was moving down the right bank of the Danube, while Mortier, at the head of twenty thousand men, was to keep nearly parallel on the left shore. Murat, with the advanced guard, was pressing with his accustomed audacity toward Vienna. In the mean time the Russian allies, finding they could not save the capital, crossed over the Danube to the left shore to escape the pursuit of Napoleon and effect a junction with reinforcements that were coming up. Mortier was aware of this, and pressed eagerly forward to intercept their march toward Moravia.
As you pass from Dirnstein to Stein, the only road winds by the Danube, and between it and a range of rocky hills, forming a deep and narrow defile. Mortier was at the former place hastening the march of his columns, and, eager to advance, pushed forward with only the single division of Gazan, leaving orders for the army to follow close in the rear. Passing through this defile, he approached Stein at daybreak, and found the rearguard [sic] of the Russian army posted on heights in front of the town, sustained by powerful batteries which swept the road along which he was marching. Notwithstanding his inferiority of numbers, and the murderous fire he should be forced to encounter, he resolved immediately to attack the enemy's position.
As the broad daylight of a November morning spread over the Danube, he opened his fire on them, and rushed to the assault. In a short time the action became desperate, and the grenadiers on both sides could almost touch each other in the close encounter. The Russian troops came pouring back to sustain the rear-guard, while the French advanced with rapid step along the road to aid their companions. With headlong courage on the one side and steady firmness on the other, the struggle grew hotter every moment. Neither would yield, and Mortier stood hour after hour amid the wasting storm, till at length he began to grow anxious for the issue, and at eleven o'clock, to hurry up his troops, galloped back to Dirnstein. Spurring furiously along the defile, he came up to Dupont's division a little beyond the farther entrance, and urged him to redouble his speed. Then, putting spurs to his horse, he again hastened back to the scene of strife. But what was his astonishment, on emerging from the road, to behold a Russian army issuing from the hills and marching straight for its entrance. Doctoroff, with his whole division, had made a circuitous march during the combat, and, cutting off Mortier's retreat, was about to take possession of the defile. As the marshal left the main road to escape being taken prisoner himself, and wound along the hillsides and saw the dense masses pouring silently into that narrow pass, his heart for a moment stopped beating; for his own doom, and that of his brave troops, seemed to be sealed. Crushed between the two armies, there was no hope for him, unless Dupont came to his relief. The morning, that had dawned so brightly upon him, had suddenly become black as midnight. But his resolution was immediately taken. There was but one course left for him, unless he intended to surrender; and that was to march back and endeavor to cut his way through to his army.
Behold that single division pressed in front by the whole Russian army, and cut off in the rear, slowly retiring toward that silent gorge! Battling back the host that pressed after him and sent their destructive storms of grapeshot through his torn ranks, Mortier formed his men into a solid column, and, without a drum or trumpet note to cheer them on, moved with a firm step into the dark entrance, resolved to exit his way through or die in the effort. But a sight dread enough to appal the stoutest heart met his gaze as he looked along the narrow strip of road between the rocks and the Danube. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but dense battalions of the enemy in order of battle. Without shrinking, however, the stead column moved with fixed bayonets into the living mass. A deadly fire received them, and the carnage at once became dreadful. With the cannon thundering on their rear, and burying their fiery loads in their ranks, swept in front by incessant discharges of musketry, trampled under foot by the cavalry, and crushed between two armies, the escape of that brave division seemed utterly hopeless. Indeed, the work of annihilation had begun with frightful rapidity. Mortier, after the most desperate fighting, had pierced but a little way into the pass, and hope grew fainter every moment as he surveyed his thinned and wasting ranks, when the thunder of cannon at the farther extremity shot a thrill of joy through his heart. No cannon-shot before ever carried such hope to his bosom, for he knew that Dupont was charging along that defile to his rescue. The Russians immediately faced this new foe also, and then commenced the complicated strife of four armies fighting in the form of one long protracted column—Mortier hemmed in between two Russian armies, and Doctoroff between two French ones. But Mortier was naturally the first to go down in this unequal strife. Combating all the morning against overwhelming numbers, and struggling in the afternoon in a deep ravine crushed between two armies, his noble division had sunk away till nothing but the mutilated fragments remained; and now, as twilight deepened over the Danube, its last hour seemed striking. But perceiving that the fire of Dupont approached steadily nearer, he cheered on his men to another and still another effort. Under the light of the stars, that now and then twinkled through the volumes of smoke that curtained in the armies, and by the blaze of the artillery, the work of death went on, while an old castle, in which Richard Cśur de Lion once lay imprisoned, stood on the hills above and looked sternly down on the strife. All along that gorge was one incessant thunder-peal of artillery, to which the blaze of musketry was as the lightning's flash. Amid the carnage that wasted around him, Mortier towered like a pillar of fire before men, as they closed sternly behind him. Nearly three-fourths of his whole division had fallen in this Thermopyae, and nothing but its skeleton was left standing, looking as if a hurricane had passed through it. Still he would not yield, but, rousing his men by his words and example, cleared a terrible path through the enemy with his sword. With his majestic form rising above the throng that tossed like a wreck on a strong current about him, he was visible to all his men. Sometimes he would be seen completely enveloped by the Russian grenadiers, while his dripping saber swept in a rapid circle around his head, drinking the life of some poor wretch with every blow, as he moved steadily on in the lane he made for himself. Parrying sword-cut and bayonet-thrust, he trod amid this chaos and death as if above the power of fate. With friends and foes falling like autumn leaves around him, he still remained untouched ; and it was owing to his strength alone, and the skill and power with which he wielded his saber, that he escaped death. His strokes fell like lightning on every side, and under them the strongest grenadier bent like a smitten reed. Struck with admiration at his gallantry, and thinking all was lost, his officers besought him to step into a bark they saw moored to the shore and escape. "No," said he, in the spirit of true heroism, "keep that for the wounded. He who has the honor to command such brave soldiers should think himself happy to die with them. We have still two guns left, and a few boxes of grapeshot-we are almost through. Close up the ranks for a last effort." And they did close up and move intrepidly into the fire. But the last of the ammunition was soon gone, and then nothing was left but the bayonet. But just then a cheer burst on their ears over the roar of battle—the cheer of approaching deliverance—and they answered it. That shout was like life to the dead, and that torn and mangled remnant of a column closed up for a final charge. The Russians flew up a side valley before the onset and with the shout, "France, France, you have saved us!" that weary but heroic band rushed into the arms of their deliverers. A loud hurrah rent the air, and the bloody conflict was done. Nearly six thousand men lay piled in ghastly heaps along the road, while broken muskets and twisted bayonets, scattered here and there, showed how close and fierce the struggle had been.
The deep and solemn silence that succeeded this uproar was broken only by the groans of the wounded, or the sullen murmur of the Danube, that rolled its bright waters along as calmly as if no deadly strife had stained its banks with blood. The smoke of battle, which had rolled so fiercely over the scene, now hung above the river, or lay along the hillsides like thin vapor, calm and tranquil, while nature breathed long and peacefully.
Mortier had been outgeneraled but not conquered; and his bearing on this occasion stamped him as a true hero. The decision to cut his way through the enemy or perish, the personal courage he exhibited, and the noble resolution to fall amid his brave followers when all hope seemed lost, exhibited not only the greatness of the warrior but the nobleness of the man.
His career, as has been remarked, in Spain was not a brilliant one; but he appears before us again in his true character in the expedition to Russia. The honorable post of commander of the Young Guard was given to him, and his place was near the Emperor's person. He took no active part in the great combats through which the Grand Army passed to Moscow, for Napoleon was sparing both of the Young and Old Guards, and would not allow them to be engaged. At Borodino Ney and Murat, in the midst of the conflict, sent frequently to Napoleon for its aid, and though it marched to the margin of the battle, ready to pour its massive columns on the enemy the moment the French should yield, it remained merely a spectator of the fight.
As the army approached Moscow, Murat and Mortier were ordered to advance on the city. They marched for two days with nothing to eat but bruised wheat and horseflesh, and at length came in sight of the enemy drawn up for battle in a strong position. Mortier remonstrated against an attack as hopeless and useless, but Murat, with his accustomed impetuosity, ordered a charge, and two thousand of that reserve of which Napoleon had been so sparing were left on the field. Mortier immediately wrote to the Emperor denouncing Murat, and declaring he would not serve under him.
At length Moscow, with its domes and towers and palaces, appeared in sight; and Napoleon, who had joined the advanced guard, gazed long and thoughtfully on that goal of his wishes. Murat went forward and entered the gates, with his splendid cavalry; but as he passed through the streets he was struck by the solitude that surrounded him. Nothing was heard but the heavy tramp of his squadrons as he passed along, for a deserted and abandoned city was the meager prize for which such unparalleled efforts had been made. As night drew its curtain over the splendid capital, Napoleon entered the gates and immediately appointed Mortier governor. In his directions he commanded him to abstain from all pillage. "For this," said he, "you shall be answerable with your life. Defend Moscow against all, whether friend or foe."
The bright moon rose over the mighty city, tipping with silver the domes of more than two hundred churches, and pouring a flood of light over a thousand palaces and the dwellings of three hundred thousand inhabitants. The weary army sunk to rest; but there was no sleep for Mortier's eyes. Not the gorgeous and variegated palaces and their rich ornaments, nor the parks and gardens and oriental magnificence that everywhere surrounded him, kept him wakeful, but the ominous foreboding that some dire calamity was hanging over the silent capital. When he entered it, scarcely a living soul met his gaze as he looked down the long streets; and when he broke open the buildings he found parlors and bedrooms and chambers all furnished and in order, but no occupants. This sudden abandonment of their homes betokened some secret purpose yet to be fulfilled. The midnight moon was sailing over the city when the cry of "Fire!" reached the ears of Mortier; and the first light over Napoleon's falling empire was kindled, and that most wondrous scene of modern times commenced.
THE BURNING OF MOSCOW.
Mortier, as governor of the city, immediately issued his orders and was putting forth every exertion, when at daylight Napoleon hastened to him. Affecting to disbelieve the reports that the inhabitants were firing their own city, he put more rigid commands on Mortier to keep the soldiers from the work of destruction. The marshal simply pointed to some iron-covered houses that had not yet been opened, from every crevice of which smoke was issuing like steam from the sides of a pent-up volcano. Sad and thoughtful, Napoleon turned toward the Kremlin, the ancient palace of the Czars, whose huge structure rose high above the surrounding edifices.
In the morning Mortier, by great exertions, was enabled to subdue the fire. But the next night, September 15, at midnight, the sentinels on watch upon the lofty Kremlin saw below them the flames bursting through the houses and palaces, and the cry of "Fire! Fire!" passed through the city. The dread scene had now fairly opened. Fiery balloons were seen dropping from the air and lighting upon the houses, dull explosions were heard on every side from the shut-up dwellings, and the next moment a bright light burst forth and the flames were raging through the apartments. All was uproar and confusion. The serene air and moonlight of the night before had given way to driving clouds and a wild tempest that swept with the roar of the sea over the city. Flames arose on very side, blazing and crackling in the storm, while clouds of smoke and sparks in an incessant shower went driving toward the Kremlin. The clouds themselves seemed turned into fire, rolling in wrath over devoted Moscow. Mortier, crushed with the responsibility thus thrown upon his shoulders, moved with his Young Guard amid this desolution, blowing up the houses and facing the tempest and the flames—struggling nobly to arrest the conflagration.
He hastened from place to place amid the blazing ruins, his face blackened with the smoke and his hair and eyebrows singed with the fierce heat. At length the day dawned—a day of tempest and of flame—and Mortier, who had strained every nerve for thirty-six hours, entered a palace and dropped down from fatigue. The manly form and stalwart arm, that had so often carried death into the ranks of the enemy, at length gave way, and the gloomy marshal lay and panted in utter exhaustion. But the night of tempests had been succeeded by a day of tempests ; and when night again enveloped the city, it was one broad flame wavering to and fro in the blast. The wind had increased to a perfect hurricane, and shifted from quarter to quarter as if on purpose to swell the sea of fire and extinguish the last hope. The fire was approaching the Kremlin, and already the roar of the flames, and the crash of falling houses, and the crackling of burning timbers were borne to the ears of the startled Emperor. He arose and walked to and fro, stopping convulsively and gazing on the terrific scene. Murat, Eugene, and Berthier rushed into his presence, and on their knees besought him to flee; but he still clung to that haughty palace as if it were his Empire.
But at length the shout, "The Kremlin is on fire!" was heard above the roar of the conflagration, and Napoleon reluctantly consented to leave. He descended into the streets with his staff and looked about for a way of egress, but the flames blocked every passage. At length they discovered a Postern gate leading to the Moskwa, and entered it, but they had only entered still further into the danger. As Napoleon cast his eye around the open space, girdled and arched with fire, smoke, and cinders, he saw one single street yet open, but all on fire. Into this he rushed, and amid the crash of falling houses, and raging of the flames, over burning ruins, through clouds of rolling smoke, and between walls of fire, he pressed on, and at length, half suffocated, emerged in safety from the heated city, and took up his quarters in the imperial palace of Petrowsky, nearly three miles distant. Mortier, relieved from his anxiety for the Emperor, redoubled his efforts to arrest the conflagration. His men cheerfully rushed into every danger. Breathing nothing but smoke and ashes, canopied by fame and sparks and cinders, surrounded by walls of fire that rocked to and fro and fell with a crash amid the blazing ruins, carrying down with them red-hot roofs of iron, they struggled against an enemy that no boldness could awe or courage overcome. Those brave troops had heard the tramp of thousands of cavalry sweeping to battle without fear, but now they stood in still terror before the march of the conflagration, under whose burning footsteps was heard the incessant crash of falling houses and palaces and churches. The continuous roar of the raging hurricane, mingled with that of the flames, was more terrible than the thunder of artillery; and before this new foe, in the midst of this battle of the elements, the awestruck army stood powerless and affrighted.
When night again descended on the city, it presented a spectacle the like of which was never seen before, and which baffles all description. The streets were streets of fire, the heavens a canopy of fire, and the entire body of the city a mass of fire, fed by a hurricane that whirled the blazing fragments in a constant stream through the air. Incessant explosions from the blowing-up of stores of oil and tar and spirits shook the very foundations of the city and sent vast volumes of smoke rolling furiously toward the sky. Huge sheets of canvas on fire came floating like messengers of death through the flames, the towers and domes of the churches and palaces glowed with a red heat over the wild sea below, then, tottering a moment on their bases, were hurled by the tempest into the common ruin. Thousands of wretches, before unseen, were driven by the beat from the collars and hovels, and streamed in an incessant throng through the streets. Children were seen carrying their parents—the strong, the weak; while thousands more were staggering under the loads of plunder they had snatched from the flames. This, too, would frequently take fire in the falling shower, and the miserable creatures would be compelled to drop it and flee for their lives. Oh, it was a scene of woo and fear inconceivable and indescribable. A mighty and close-packed city of houses and churches and palaces, wrapped from limit to limit in flames which are fed by a fierce hurricane, is a sight this world will seldom see.
But this was all within the city. To Napoleon without the spectacle was still more sublime and terrific. When the flames had overcome all obstacles, and had wrapped everything in their red mantle, that great city looked like a sea of rolling fire swept by a tempest that drove it into vast billows. Huge domes and towers, throwing off sparks like blazing firebrands, now towered above these waves and now disappeared in their maddening flow, as they rushed and broke high over their tops, scattering their spray of fire against the clouds. The heavens themselves seemed to have caught the conflagration, and the angry masses that swept them rolled over a bosom of fire. Columns of flame would rise and sink along the surf ace of this sea, and huge
volumes of black smoke suddenly shoot into the air as if volcanoes were working below. The black form of the Kremlin alone towered above the chaos—now wrapped in flame and smoke, and again emerging into view—standing, amid this scene of desolation and terror, like virtue in the midst of a burning world, enveloped but unscathed by the devouring elements. Napoleon stood and gazed on this scene in silent awe. Though nearly three miles distant, the windows and walls of his apartment were so hot that he could scarcely bear his hand against them, Said he, years afterward: "It was the spectacle of a sea and billows of fire, a sky of clouds and flame, mountains of red, rolling flame, like immense waves of the sea, alternately bursting forth and elevating themselves to skies of fire, and then sinking into the ocean of flame below. Oh! it was the most grand, the most sublime, and the most terrific sight the world ever beheld."
When the conflagration subsided Mortier found himself governor of a city of ashes. Nine-tenths of Moscow had sunk in the flames, and the gorgeous capital with its oriental magnificence—its palaces and towers and gardens—was a heap of smoking ruins, amid which wandered half-naked, starving wretches, like specters around the place of the dead. Napoleon returned to the Kremlin, but the spectacle the camps of the soldiers presented as he passed through them was one his eye had never rested on before.* The soldiers had here and there thrown together a few boards to shelter them from the weather, and sprinkled over the soft, wet ground with straw to keep off the dampness, and "there, reclining under silken canopies, or sitting in elegant chairs, with Cashmere shawls and the costliest furs, and all the apparel of the noble and wealthy strewed around them, they fed their camp-fires with mahogany furniture and ornamental work, which had a few days before decorated the palaces of the noble." The half-starved wretches were eating from silver plates, though their only food was a miserable black cake and half-boiled horseflesh. In the interval between them and the city were crowds of disbanded soldiers, staggering under the weight of plunder, and among them many Russians, men and women, seeking the camp-fires of their enemies. In the city it was still worse, and an insufferable stench arose from the smoking mass. All discipline was lost, and the disbanded army swarmed through the streets for plunder. This they gathered into the open places, and bartered away with their friends. Thus the poor creatures loaded themselves with gold and silver and costly apparel, little thinking how valueless the snowdrifts of Russia would soon make them. When Napoleon was again established in the Kremlin he put a stop to this disorder, and ordered the plundering to be carried on according to rule.
At length the reluctant Napoleon turned his back on the towers of Moscow, confessing to the world that after the loss of a hundred thousand men and incredible toil he had grasped only a phantom. It was necessary that some one should cover his retreat by remaining in the city, and Mortier was appointed to this unwelcome task. Had the Young Guard been left with him, it would not have been so hopeless an undertaking; but only eight thousand were put under his command, of which not more than a quarter could be relied upon. With this handful of men he was to cover Napoleon's retreat, and when he could hold out no longer, to blow up the Kremlin and join the rear-guard of the army. It was necessary for someone to do this for the safety of the army, and the lot fell more naturally on Mortier as governor of the city. That is, a sacrifice was demanded and it seemed proper that Mortier should be the victim. That he should escape the whole Russian army was not to be expected, and when his friends took their farewell it was as with one they should never see again. Mortier himself looked on his career as ended, but made no complaint. Without a murmur he set about fulfilling the task allotted to him.
As the army withdrew from the city, the Cossacks began to swarm around it, and finally drove Mortier and his feeble band into the Kremlin. These were followed by ten thousand Russians, who pressed around the French marshal. To perform the double task assigned him, of defending the city and blowing up the Kremlin, he was compelled, even while he occupied it, to gather immense quantities of powder within it, a single touch of which would send that massive structure broken and shattered toward the heavens. He placed a hundred and eighty-three thousand pounds in the vaults below, while he scattered barrels of it through the different apartments above. Over this volcano of his own creation he stood and fought for four days, when the slightest ignition from one of the enemy's guns would have buried him and his soldiers in one wild grave together.
At length, after he had kindled a slow firework whose combustion could be nicely calculated, he led his weary troops out of that ancient structure. But while he marched with rapid steps from the scene of danger, several Cossacks and Russians, finding the imperial palace deserted, rushed into it after plunder. The next moment the massive pile wavered to and fro like a column of sand, and, seeming to rise from the earth, fell with a crash that was heard thirty miles distant. The earth shook under Mortier as if an earthquake was on the march. Huge stones, fragments of wall, thirty thousand stand of arms, and mangled bodies and limbs were hurled in one fierce shower heavenward together, and then sunk over the ruined city. The second act in the great drama was now ended, and the last was about to commence.
On his arrival at the army he was again placed over the Young Guard. At the battle of Krasnoi, which Napoleon fought to save Davoust, and which was described in the chapter on that marshal, Mortier was the principal actor. When Bonaparte with his six thousand Imperial Guard marched into the center of fifty thousand Russians, protected by powerful batteries, Mortier, with five thousand of the Young Guard—all that was left of that splendid body—was just in advance of him. He and General Roguet commenced the attack. The Russians, able by their overwhelming numbers to crush that handful of French at once, hesitated to advance, and began to cannonade them. Mortier stood with his noble Guard in the midst of this iron storm, willing victims to save Davoust. Having no artillery of his own to answer the murderous batteries of the Russians, and they being beyond the reach of musketry, he had nothing to do but remain inactive and let the cannon plow through his ranks. For three mortal hours he stood and saw the horrible gaps which every discharge made. Yet not a battalion broke; and that "Young Guard there proved themselves worthy to fight beside the Old Guard of the Empire. In those three hours two thousand of his little band had fallen, and then he was directed to retreat. Steadily and in perfect order, though the enemy were rapidly hemming them in, did that heroic Guard retire before those fifty thousand Russians. Mortier gave orders for them to retreat slowly, and General Laborde, repeating his orders, exclaimed, "Do you hear, soldiers? The marshal orders ordinary time. Ordinary time, soldiers!" and amid that incessant tempest of grapeshot and balls it was "ordinary time" with them. The brave fellows never hastened their steps by a single movement, but marched as calmly out of that storm as if going to their bivouacks.
At Lutzen and Dresden he fought worthy of his former glory, and at the disastrous battle of Leipsic commanded the Old Guard. He battled for France till the last moment, and when the allied forces invaded his country and were marching towards Paris, he and Marmont alone were left to arrest them. Napoleon, thinking to draw the enemy after him, had hung on their rear till they were out of his reach and on the march for the French capital.
But previous to his separation from Napoleon, Mortier combated bravely by his side in those stupendous efforts he put forth to save his empire. At the battle of Montmirail he fought beside Ney with the greatest heroism. At the commencement of the action he was not on the field, but amid the roar of artillery and the shocks of the bayonet he came up, bringing with him the Old Guard, the cuirassiers, and the Guards of Honor. Napoleon immediately ordered a grand attack on the center, and while victory stood balancing in the conflict, he brought up the cuirassiers and Guards of Honor. As they rode in their splendid array past him, he said, "Brave young men! there is the enemy! will you let them march on Paris?" "We will not," was the ready response, and shaking their glittering sabers over their heads, they burst with a loud hurrah on the enemy, scattering them like a whirlwind from their path.
At the bloody battle of Craon he fought on foot at the head of his columns, and, amid one of the most wasting fires artillery troops were perhaps ever exposed to, steadied his men by his example, and was seen, again and again, with his tall, commanding form rising above his soldiers, to move straight into the blaze of the enemy's batteries, When the smoke cleared away there he still stood amid his rent and shattered ranks, sending his calm voice over the tumult, and animating, for the third time, his troops by his courageous words and still more courageous actions.
But when Marmont and Mortier, who had held the positions at Rheims and Soissons, as Napoleon had directed, found themselves exit off from all communication with the Emperor by the interposition of the Russian army, their case became desperate. With only twenty thousand men in all, they slowly retired toward Paris before the formidable masses of the allied forces. The weary army was toiling on, striving to gain the village of Fere-Champanoise, fighting as it went, when twenty thousand horse came thundering upon it, and a hundred and thirty guns opened their fire on its shaking squares. Bravely combating, Mortier struggled with his wonted firmness to steady his troops. His five thousand cavalry met the shock of these twenty thousand bravely, but in vain; the hundred and eighty guns sent havoc amid the squares, making hue [sic] rents into which the Russian cuirassiers galloped with fierce valor, treading down everything in their passage. A heavy rolling fire of musketry met each charge, but at length order was lost, and the army, which had patiently dragged its bleeding form over the plain; rushed in one confused mass into Fere-Champanoise. A gallant charge of horse from the village, right through the broken ranks, arrested the pursuit till Mortier and Marmont could rally their troops behind the houses.
The next day a division under General Pacthod, coming up to join the French army, was surrounded by the Imperial Guards of Alexander, commanded by the Emperor in person, and, refusing to surrender, was utterly annihilated. It could not he helped, though the valor the soldiers exhibited deserved a better reward. Completely surrounded, they formed themselves into squares, and kept up a rolling fire as they retreated toward Fere-Champanoise. Thirteen thousand cavalry galloped around this worn band of six thousand, filling the air with dust, and fell in successive shocks on them in vain, till a battery, brought to bear with fatal effect, made a lane through one square, into which they dashed and sabered it to pieces. The Emperor Alexander, admiring their valor, wished to save them, and ordered them to surrender. General Pacthod refused, and, cheering his men by his actions and words, roused them to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; and though the cannonballs crushed through them with frightful havoc, they moved unshaken amid the storm,—rent and torn into fragments,—then, weeping in indignation that they had fired their last cartridge of ammunition, charged bayonet. At length, when half of the whole division had fallen, and the enemy's cavalry was riding through their broken ranks with irresistible fury, General Pacthod delivered up his sword.
A most touching incident occurred during this engagement. In the midst of the fight, Lord Londonderry saw a young and beautiful lady, the wife of a French officer, dragged from a calèche by three wretches who were making off with their prey. Galloping up to her rescue, he snatched her from their hands and delivered her to his orderly, to be taken to his own quarters, who, lifting her to the horse behind him, started off, but was scarcely out of sight when a band of Cossacks rushed upon him, and, piercing him through with a lance, bore off the lady. She was never heard of more. Every exertion was made to discover her fate, but it was never known. Whether, a prey to lawless violence, she was released from her sufferings by death, or whether she dragged out her existence a helpless captive, no one can tell.
After this defeat, Mortier and Marmont could no longer keep the field, and fell back on Paris. There they made the last stand for their country, and fought till valor and resistance were no longer of avail, and then delivered up their swords to the enemy. But though together in their retreat, and equally brave in their last defense, they were not alike in their surrender of the city. Mortier's honor is free from the stain that dims the luster of Marmont's fame.
Sickness, as before stated, prevented Mortier from striking a last blow for Napoleon at Waterloo. If he had commanded the Young Guard on that day, and Murat the cavalry, the fate of the battle and the world might have been changed.
He was retained in the confidence of Louis Phillippe, until at length he, who had passed through so many battles unscathed, fell a victim to an assassin. On the 28th of July, 1835, as Louis Phillippe was going to a review of the National Guard, Mortier, on horseback close behind, was killed by the explosion of Fieschi's infernal machine. A little delay had allowed the King to pass the spot of danger, but when the smoke lifted, Mortier was seen falling from his horse, dead. He was the most distinguished victim in that attempt to assassinate the King.