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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

In the territory of the Rhine Bund


In

the territory of the Rhine-Bund, there was, however, very little real patriotism among the people: in Austria the latter were still kept down by the Jesuitic rule of the Hapsburgs: only in the smaller Saxon Duchies, and in Prussia, the idea of resistance was fostered, though in spite of Frederick William III. Indeed, the temporary removal of the king was for awhile secretly advocated. Hardenberg and Scharnhorst did their utmost to prepare the people for the struggle which they knew would come: the former introduced new laws, based on the principle of the equality of all citizens before the law, their equal right to development, protection and official service. Scharnhorst, the son of a peasant, trained the people for military duty, in defiance of France: he kept the number of soldiers at 42,000, in accordance with the treaty, but as fast as they were well-drilled, he sent them home and put fresh recruits in their place. In this manner he gradually prepared 150,000 men for the army.

[Illustration: GERMANY under NAPOLEON, 1812.]

[Sidenote: 1811.]

Alexander I. of Russia had by this time lost his sentimental friendship for Napoleon. The seizure by the latter of the territory of the Duke of Oldenburg, who was his near relation, greatly offended him: he grew tired of submitting to the Continental Blockade, and in 1811 adopted commercial laws which amounted to its abandonment. Then

Napoleon showed his own overwhelming arrogance; and his course once more illustrated the abject condition of Germany. Every ruler saw that a great war was coming, and had nearly a year's time for decision; but all submitted! Early in 1812 the colossal plan was put into action: Prussia agreed to furnish 20,000 soldiers, Austria 30,000, and the Rhine-Bund, which comprised the rest of Germany, was called upon for 150,000. France furnished more than 300,000, and this enormous military force was set in motion against Russia, which was at the time unable to raise half that number of troops. In May Napoleon and Maria Louisa held a grand Court in Dresden, which a crowd of reigning princes attended, and where even Francis I. and Frederick William III. were treated rather as vassals than as equals. This was the climax of Napoleon's success. Regardless of distance, climate, lack of supplies and all the other impediments to his will, he pushed forward with an army greater than Europe had seen since the days of Attila, but from which only one man, horse and cannon out of every ten returned.

After holding a grand review on the battle-field of Friedland, he crossed the Niemen and entered Russia on the 24th of June, met the Russians in battle at Smolensk on the 16th and 17th of August, and after great losses continued his march towards Moscow through a country which had been purposely laid waste, and where great numbers of his soldiers perished from hunger and fatigue. On the 7th of September, the Russian army of 120,000 men met him on the field of Borodino, where occurred the most desperate battle of all his wars. At the close of the fight 80,000 dead and wounded (about an equal number on each side) lay upon the plain. The Russians retreated, repulsed but not conquered, and on the 14th of September Napoleon entered Moscow. The city was deserted by its inhabitants: all goods and treasures which could be speedily removed had been taken away, and the next evening flames broke out in a number of places. The conflagration spread so that within a week four-fifths of the city were destroyed: Napoleon was forced to leave the Kremlin and escape through burning streets; and thus the French army was left without winter-quarters and provisions.


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