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habitations scattered here and there. Some of the churches, composed of less combustible materials than the other buildings, had their roofs entire, and were transformed into barracks and stables. The hymns and holy melodies which had once resounded within these ) sacred walls now gave place to the neighing of horses, and the horrible blasphemies of the soldiers.
Although the population of Moscow had almost disappeared, there still remained some of those unfortunate beings whom misery had accustomed to look on all occurrences with indifference. Most of them had become the menial servants of their spoilers, and thought themselves most happy if they were permitted to share any
There was also a number of unfortunate girls, and derived any advantage from the plunder of Moscow. The soldiers eagerly associated with them, and when they were once introduced into our quarters, they soon became absolute mistresses of them, and squandered away all that the flames had spared. A small number, however, really merited our regard by their education, and above all, by their misfortunes ; for, horrible to relate, famine and misery had compelled their mothers to come and offer them to us. This immorality, under such circumstances, recoiled on those who had not sufficient virtue to resist the temptation, and who regarded with an eye of passion the forms which hunger had emaciated, and disease had rendered dangerous and loathsome.
There yet remained at Moscow a class of men the most contemptible of all, since they escaped the punishment due to their former crimes by consenting to commit still greater; these were the convicted felons. During the whole time of the conflagration of Moscow, they signalized themselves by the audacity with which they executed the orders they had received. Provided with phosphorus, they lighted the fire anew, wherever it appeared to be extinguished, and even crept by stealth into the houses which were inhabited, to involve them in the general ruin.
Several of these miscreants were arrested with torches in their hands, but their punishment, too prompt and summary, produced little effect. The people, who always detested their conquerors, regarded these executions merely as the effect of policy. In short, these victims were too obscure for the expiation of such a crime; and, above all, their trial wanting publicity and legal form, threw no light on the cause of this dreadful calamity, and could not justify us clearly in the estima. tion of those who persisted in believing that we were the authors of it.
Many of the Moscovites who had been concealed in the neighbouring forests, perceiving that the conflagration had ceased, believing that they had nothing more to fear, had re-entered the city. Some of them sought in vain for their houses, the very site of which could scarcely be discovered ; others would fain have taken refuge in the sanctuary of their God, but it had been profaned. The public walks presented a revolting spectacle. The ground was thickly strewed with dead bodies, and from many of the half-burnt trees were suspended the carcasses of incendiaries. In the midst of these horrors were seen many of the unfortunate inhabitants, who, destitute of every asylum, were collecting the charred planks, to construct a cabin in some unfrequented place, or ravaged garden. Having nothing to eat, they eagerly dug the earth to find the roots of those vegetables which the soldiers had gathered, or, wandering among the ruins, they diligently searched among the cinders for
food which the fire had not entirely consumed. Pale, emaciated, and almost naked, the very slowness of their walk announced the excess of their sufferings. /Others recollecting that some barges loaded with grain had been sunk, plunged into the river to feed on the wheat then in a state of fermentation, and the stench of which was most disgusting. To relieve this dreadful recital, I will relate the noble conduct of a French soldier, who found in one of the cemeteries a woman who had just lain in. Perceiving that she had been abandoned by all to whom she could naturally look
for protection, that she was without succour and without food, the generous soldier gave her
assistance in his power, and for many days shared with her the scanty provisions which he was able to procure.
THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW. Those who did not witness the departure of the French army from Moscow can form but a faint idea of what the Greek and Roman armies were when they abandoned the ruins of Troy or of Carthage. But they who observed the appearance of our army at this moment acknowledged the accuracy of those interesting scenes which are so admirably described in the writings of Virgil and Livy. The long files of carriages, in three or four ranks, extended for several leagues, loaded with the immense booty which the soldiers had snatched from the flames; and the Moscovite peasants, who were now become our servants, resembled the slaves which the ancients dragged in their train. Others carrying with them their wives and children, or the wretched prostitutes of Moscow, represented the warriors amongst whom the captives had been divided. Afterwards came numerous waggons filled with trophies, among which were Turkish or Persian standards torn from the vaulted roofs of the palaces of the Czars, and, last of all, the celebrated cross of St. Iwan gloriously closed the rear of an army which, but for the imprudence of its chief, would have been enabled to boast that it had extended its conquests to the very limits of Europe, and astonished the people of Asia with the sound of the same cannon with which the pillars of Hercules had reechoed.
The cavalry was now (November 19) totally dismounted, and Napoleon wanting an escort, all the officers who had been able to preserve a horse were formed into four companies of 150 men each. Generals
Defrance, Saint-German, Sebastiani, &c. acted as captains, and the colonels constituted the sub-officers. This squadron, to which the name of sacred was given, was commanded by General Grouchy, under the orders of the King of Naples. Their duty was never to lose sight of the Emperor. But these horses, which had hitherto resisted the rigour of the climate, having been better taken care of than those of the soldiers, perished as soon as they were made to bear their share of fatigue and privations; and at the end of a few days, the sacred squadron was no more.
The enemy continued to follow us at the distance of two or three musket-shots, while the poor remains of the army, having no longer the means of defence, continued their march in the extremest disorder. The men were incessantly harassed by the Cossacks, who at every defile fell upon the rear of our column, plundered our baggage, and compelled us to abandon our artillery, which the horses could no longer draw. Napoleon had hitherto travelled in a chariot almost hermetically closed, and filled with furs. He wore a pelisse and a bonnet of sable furs, which prevented him from feeling the severest cold; but after we quitted Krasnoë, he often proceeded on foot, followed by his staff, and saw, without emotion, the miserable wrecks of an army, once so powerful, file before him. Yet his presence never excited a single murmur ; on the contrary, it reanimated the most timid, who forgot all their sufferings and all their fears at the sight of the Emperor.
We quickly entered into Doubrowna. That town was in a better state of preservation than any through which we had passed in our journey from Moscow. It had a Polonese sub-prefect, and a commandant of the town. The inhabitants were principally Jews, who procured us a little flour, brandy, and metheglin. They also exchanged the paper-money of the soldiers for cash. In fine, astonished at the confidence of these Israelites, and the honesty of our soldiers, who paid for every thing which they took, we thought plenty was about to revisit us, and that our misfortunes were near their close. Yet
we were struggling under accumulated evils. “Bread! bread!" was the incessant cry of the feeble remains of our once powerful army. The followers of the camp
of every kind suffered greatly, particularly the commissaries and storekeepers, who had been little accustomed to privations. But none were more to be pitied than the physicians, and especially the surgeons, who, without hope of advancement, exposed themselves like the common soldiers, by dressing the wounded on the field of battle. While we were at Doubrowna, I saw a young surgeon near a house, which the soldiers surrounded in crowds, because it was reported that provisions were to be procured there. He was plunged in the profoundest grief, and, with an eager and an anxious countenance, was violently endeavouring to force his way into the place. But when he was again and again driven back by the crowd, he exhibited the wildest despair. I ventured to inquire the cause.—" Ah, captain!” said he, "I am a lost man. For two days I have had no food, and ascertaining that they sold bread in this house, I gave the sentinel six francs to suffer me to enter. But while the bread was yet in the oven, the Jew would not promise to supply me, unless I gave him a louis in advance. I consented, but when I came back the sentinel was changed, and I was cruelly repulsed from the door. “ Ab, sir," continued he, “I am indeed unfortunate; I have lost all the money that I had in the world, and am unable to procure a morsel of bread, though I have not tasted any for more than a month."
Leaving Doubrowna, we next halted at Orcha. During our stay there, Napoleon, foreseeing that he should soon be placed in a most critical situation, made every effort to rally his troops. He caused it to be proclaimed by sound of trumpet, and by three colonels, that every soldier who did not immediately rejoin his regiment should be punished with death ; and that every officer or general who abandoned his post should be dismissed. But when we regained the great road, we perceived what little effect this measure had produced.