“Pillage continues in the city, in spite of the orders to stop it. Order is not yet restored, and there is not a single merchant carrying on trade in a lawful fashion. But the canteen-keepers permit themselves to sell the fruits of pillage.

“Part of my district continues to be a prey to the pillaging of the soldiers of the 3rd corps who, not satisfied with tearing from the poor wretches, who have taken refuge in the underground cellars, the little they have left, have even the ferocity to wound them with sword-cuts, as I have seen in several instances.

“Nothing new, but that the soldiers give themselves up to robbery and plunder. October 9th.

“Robbery and pillage continue. There is a band of robbers in our district, which would need strong guards to arrest it. October 11th.

“The Emperor is exceedingly displeased that, in spite of the strict orders to stop pillage, bands of marauders from the guards are continually returning to the Kremlin. In the Old Guards, the disorder and pillaging have been more violent than ever last night and to-day. The Emperor sees, with regret, that the picked soldiers, appointed to guard his person, who should set an example to the rest, are losing discipline to such a degree as to break into the cellars and stores prepared for the army. Others are so degraded that they refuse to obey sentinels and officers on guard, abuse them, and strike them.

“The chief marshal of the palace complains bitterly that, in spite of repeated prohibitions, the soldiers continue to commit nuisances in all the courtyards, and even before the Emperor’s own windows.”

The army, like a herd of cattle run wild, and trampling underfoot the fodder that might have saved them from starvation, was falling to pieces, and getting nearer to its ruin with every day it remained in Moscow.

But it did not move.

It only started running when it was seized by panic fear at the capture of a transport on the Smolensk road and the battle of Tarutino. The news of the battle of Tarutino reached Napoleon unexpectedly in the middle of a review, and aroused in him—so Thiers tells us—a desire to punish the Russians, and he gave the order for departure that all the army was clamouring for.

In their flight from Moscow, the soldiers carried with them all the plunder they had collected. Napoleon, too, carried off his own private trésor. Seeing the great train of waggons, loaded with the booty of the army, Napoleon was alarmed (as Thiers tells us). But with his military experience, he did not order all unnecessary waggons of goods to be burnt, as he had done with a marshal’s baggage on the way to Moscow. He gazed at those carts and carriages, filled with soldiers, and said that it was very well, that those conveyances would come in useful for provisions, the sick, and the wounded.

The plight of the army was like the plight of a wounded beast, that feels its death at hand, and knows not what it is doing. Studying the intricate manœuvres and schemes of Napoleon and his army from the time of entering Moscow up to the time of the destruction of that army is much like watching the death struggles and convulsions of a beast mortally wounded. Very often the wounded creature, hearing a stir, rushes to meet the hunter’s shot, runs forward and back again, and itself hastens its end. Napoleon under the pressure of his army did likewise. Panic-stricken at the rumour of the battle of Tarutino, like a wild beast, the army made a rush towards the shot, reached the hunter, and ran back again; and at last, like every wild creature took the old familiar track, that was the worst and most disastrous way for it.

Napoleon is represented to us as the leader in all this movement, just as the figurehead in the prow of a ship to the savage seems the force that guides the ship on its course. Napoleon in his activity all this time was like a child, sitting in a carriage, pulling the straps within it, and fancying he is moving it along.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.