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

He advised them as to their policy towards Sardinia


As

a matter of fact, the French army was at that time so disorganized by rapine as scarcely to have withstood a combined and vigorous attack by Beaulieu and Colli. The republicans, long exposed to hunger and privations, were now revelling in the fertile plains of Piedmont. Large bands of marauders ranged the neighbouring country, and the regiments were often reduced to mere companies. From the grave risks of this situation Bonaparte was rescued by the timidity of the Court of Turin, which signed the armistice at Cherasco eighteen days after the commencement of the campaign. A fortnight later the preliminaries of peace were signed between France and the King of Sardinia, by which the latter yielded up his provinces of Savoy and Nice, and renounced the alliance with Austria. Great indignation was felt in the Imperialist camp at this news; and it was freely stated that the Piedmontese had let themselves be beaten in order to compass a peace that had been tacitly agreed upon in the month of January.[44]

Even before this auspicious event, Bonaparte's despatches to the Directors were couched in almost imperious terms, which showed that he felt himself the master of the situation. He advised them as to their policy towards Sardinia, pointing out that, as Victor Amadeus had yielded up three important fortresses, he was practically in the hands of the French: "If you do not accept peace with him, if your plan is to dethrone him, you must amuse him for a

few decades[45] and must warn me: I then seize Valenza and march on Turin." In military affairs the young general showed that he would brook no interference from Paris. He requested the Directory to draft 15,000 men from Kellermann's Army of the Alps to reinforce him: "That will give me an army of 45,000 men, of which possibly I may send a part to Rome. If you continue your confidence and approve these plans, I am sure of success: Italy is yours." Somewhat later, the Directors proposed to grant the required reinforcements, but stipulated for the retention of part of the army in the Milanese _under the command of Kellermann_. Thereupon Bonaparte replied (May 14th) that, as the Austrians had been reinforced, it was highly impolitic to divide the command. Each general had his own way of making war. Kellermann, having more experience, would doubtless do it better: but both together would do it very badly.

Again the Directors had blundered. In seeking to subject Bonaparte to the same rules as had been imposed on all French generals since the treason of Dumouriez in 1793, they were doubtless consulting the vital interests of the Commonwealth. But, while striving to avert all possibilities of Caesarism, they now sinned against that elementary principle of strategy which requires unity of design in military operations. Bonaparte's retort was unanswerable, and nothing more was heard of the luckless proposal.

Meanwhile the peace with the House of Savoy had thrown open the Milanese to Bonaparte's attack. Holding three Sardinian fortresses, he had an excellent base of operations; for the lands restored to the King of Sardinia were to remain subject to requisitions for the French army until the general peace. The Austrians, on the other hand, were weakened


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