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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

He deceived the Archduke by a heavy cannonade


Napoleon

returned from Spain at the first news of the impending war. As the Rhine-Bund did not dream of disobedience, as Prussia was crippled, and the sentimental friendship of Alexander I. had not yet grown cold, he raised an army of 180,000 men and entered Bavaria by the 9th of April. The Archduke was not prepared: his large force had been divided and stationed according to a plan which might have been very successful, if Napoleon had been willing to respect it. He lost three battles in succession, the last, at Eckmuehl on the 22d of April, obliging him to give up Ratisbon, and retreat into Bohemia. The second Austrian army, which had been victorious over the Viceroy Eugene, in Italy, was instantly recalled, but it was too late: there were only 30,000 men on the southern bank of the Danube, between the French and Vienna.

[Sidenote: 1809.]

The movement in Tyrol was imitated in Prussia by Major Schill, one of the defenders of Colberg in 1807. His heroism had given him great popularity, and he was untiring in his efforts to incite the people to revolt. The secret association of patriotic men, already referred to, which was called the _Tugendbund_, or "League of Virtue," encouraged him so far as it was able; and when he entered Berlin at the head of four squadrons of hussars, immediately after the news of Hofer's success, he was received with such enthusiasm that he imagined the moment had come for arousing Prussia. Marching

out of the city, as if for the usual cavalry exercise, he addressed his troops in a fiery speech, revealed to them his plans and inspired them with equal confidence. With his little band he took Halle, besieged Bernburg, was victorious in a number of small battles against the increasing forces of the French, but at the end of a month was compelled to retreat to Stralsund. The city was stormed, and he fell in resisting the assault; the French captured and shot twelve of his officers. The fame of his exploits helped to fire the German heart; the courage of the people returned, and they began to grow restless and indignant under their shame.

By the 13th of May, Napoleon had entered Vienna and taken up his quarters in the palace of Schoenbrunn. The Archduke Karl was at the same time rapidly approaching with an army of 75,000 men, and Napoleon, who had 90,000, hastened to throw a bridge across the Danube, below the city, in order to meet him before he could be reinforced. On the 21st, however, the Archduke began the attack before the whole French army had crossed, and the desperate battle of Aspern followed. After two days of bloody fighting, the French fell back upon the island of Lobau, and their bridge was destroyed. This was Napoleon's first defeat in Germany, but it was dearly purchased: the loss on each side was about 24,000. Napoleon issued flaming bulletins of victory which deceived the German people for a time, meanwhile ordering new troops to be forwarded with all possible haste. He deceived the Archduke by a heavy cannonade, rapidly constructed six bridges further down the river, crossed with his whole army, and on the 6th of July fought the battle of Wagram, which ended with the defeat and retreat of the Austrians.


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