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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

On October 9th Lyons fell before the Jacobins


Buonaparte's arrival the Jacobins had no artillery: true, they had a few field-pieces, four heavier guns and two mortars, which a sergeant helplessly surveyed; but they had no munitions, no tools, above all no method and no discipline. Here then was the opportunity for which he had been pining. At once he assumes the tone of a master. "You mind your business, and let me look after mine," he exclaims to officious infantrymen; "it is artillery that takes fortresses: infantry gives its help." The drudgery of the last weeks now yields fruitful results: his methodical mind, brooding over the chaos before him, flashes back to this or that detail in some coast fort or magazine: his energy hustles on the leisurely Provencaux, and in a few days he has a respectable park of artillery--fourteen cannon, four mortars, and the necessary stores. In a brief space the Commissioners show their approval of his services by promoting him to the rank of _chef de bataillon_.

By this time the tide was beginning to turn in favour of the Republic. On October 9th Lyons fell before the Jacobins. The news lends a new zest to the Jacobins, whose left wing had (October 1st) been severely handled by the allies on Mount Faron. Above all, Buonaparte's artillery can be still further strengthened. "I have despatched," he wrote to the Minister of War, "an intelligent officer to Lyons, Briancon, and Grenoble, to procure what might be useful to us. I have requested the Army of Italy

to furnish us with the cannon now useless for the defence of Antibes and Monaco.... I have established at Ollioules an arsenal with 80 workers. I have requisitioned horses from Nice right to Valence and Montpellier.... I am having 5,000 gabions made every day at Marseilles." But he was more than a mere organizer. He was ever with his men, animating them by his own ardour: "I always found him at his post," wrote Doppet, who now succeeded Carteaux; "when he needed rest he lay on the ground wrapped in his cloak: he never left the batteries." There, amidst the autumn rains, he contracted the febrile symptoms which for several years deepened the pallor of his cheeks and furrowed the rings under his eyes, giving him that uncanny, almost spectral, look which struck a chill to all who saw him first and knew not the fiery energy that burnt within. There, too, his zeal, his unfailing resource, his bulldog bravery, and that indefinable quality which separates genius from talent speedily conquered the hearts of the French soldiery. One example of this magnetic power must here suffice. He had ordered a battery to be made so near to Fort Mulgrave that Salicetti described it as within a pistol-shot of the English guns. Could it be worked, its effect would be decisive. But who could work it? The first day saw all its gunners killed or wounded, and even the reckless Jacobins flinched from facing the iron hail. "Call it _the battery of the fearless_," ordered the young captain. The generous French nature was touched at its tenderest point, personal and national honour, and the battery thereafter never lacked its full complement of gunners, living and dead.

The position at Fort Mulgrave, or the Little Gibraltar, was, indeed, all important; for if the republicans seized that commanding position, the allied squadrons could be overpowered, or at least compelled to sail away; and with their departure Toulon must fall.

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