Chapter 10

BUT, strange to say, all these arrangements, these efforts and plans, which were no whit inferior to those that had been made on similar occasions before, never touched the root of the matter; like the hands on the face of a clock, when detached from the mechanism, they turned aimlessly and arbitrarily, without catching the wheels.

The plan of campaign, that work of genius, of which Thiers says, that his genius never imagined anything more profound, more skilful, and more admirable, and entering into a polemical discussion with M. Fenn, proves that the composition of this work of genius is to be referred, not to the 4th, but to the 15th of October—that plan never was and never could be put into execution, because it had nothing in common with the actual facts of the position. The fortification of the Kremlin, for which it was necessary to pull down la Mosquée (as Napoleon called the church of Vassily the Blessed) turned out to be perfectly useless. The mining of the Kremlin was only of use for carrying out the desire the Emperor expressed on leaving Moscow, to blow up the Kremlin, like a child that beats the floor against which it has hurt itself. The pursuit of the Russian army, on which Napoleon laid so much stress, led to an unheard-of result. The French generals lost sight of the sixty thousand men of the Russian army, and it was only, in the words of Thiers, thanks to the skill, and apparently also the genius, of Murat that they succeeded at last in finding, like a lost pin, this army of sixty thousand men.

On the diplomatic side, all Napoleon’s expositions of his magnanimity and justice, both to Tutolmin and to Yakovlev (the latter was principally interested in finding himself a great-coat and a conveyance for travelling) turned out to be fruitless. Alexander would not receive these envoys, and made no reply to the message they brought.

On the side of law, of order, after the execution of the supposed incendiaries, the other half of Moscow was burnt down.

The establishment of a municipal council did not check pillage, and was no benefit to any one but the few persons, who were members of it, and were able on the pretext of preserving order to plunder Moscow on their own account, or to save their own property from being plundered.

On the religious side, the difficulty had so easily been settled by Napoleon’s visit to a mosque in Egypt, but here similar measures led to no results whatever. Two or three priests, picked up in Moscow, did attempt to carry out Napoleon’s desire; but one of them was slapped in the face by a French soldier during the service, and in regard to the other, the following report was made by a French official: “The priest, whom I had discovered and invited to resume saying the Mass, cleaned and closed the church. In the night they came again to break in the doors, break the padlocks, tear the books, and commit other disorders.”

As for the encouragement of commerce, the proclamation to “industrious artisans and peasants,” met with no response at all. Industrious artisans there were none in Moscow, and the peasants set upon the messengers who ventured too far from the town with this proclamation and killed them.

The attempts to entertain the people and the troops with theatres were equally unsuccessful. The theatres set up in the Kremlin and Poznyakov’s house were closed again immediately, because the actors and actresses were stripped of their belongings by the soldiers.

Even philanthropy did not bring the desired results. Moscow was full of paper money, genuine and counterfeit, and the notes had no value. The French, accumulating booty, cared for nothing but gold. The counterfeit notes, which Napoleon so generously bestowed on the unfortunate, were of no value, and even silver fell below its standard value in relation to gold.

But the most striking example of the ineffectiveness of all efforts made by the authorities was Napoleon’s vain endeavour to check plunder, and to maintain discipline.

Here are reports sent in by the military authorities:

  By PanEris using Melati.

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