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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XI


DURING my first command in Rome I had begun a collection of objects of art, of curiosities and antiques, which I confided to the care of a faithful friend at the time of the invasion by the Neapolitan troops without any previous declaration of war. On my return to Rome, seventeen days later, I found it intact. It was considerably augmented by presents of pictures from the principal Romans, which I considered I might accept in return for important personal services that I was able to render them.

After the conquest of Naples, the French Government divided the objects of art among the Generals who had taken part in it, after a commission of artists had selected objects wherewith to enrich our museum in Paris. I had succeeded General Championnet, and the commission was charged to set aside what should come to me. Some pictures, Etruscan vases, and ancient frescoes from the walls of Pompeii were given to me, valued at 800,000 francs (32,000). I had them all packed and forwarded to Rome, with the treasures for the Government. In Rome I caused to be added to them all that I had acquired in that city, and the convoy continued its journey into Tuscany; its destination was Genoa, whence it was to go to Marseilles.

I thought no more about it; but on reaching Genoa I caused inquiries to be made, unfortunately too late, at the merchant's office to which they had been consigned. They had never arrived, and I discovered afterwards that the waggoners had not been able to pass beyond Pisa in consequence of the risings; that having waited there a long time and spent all their money, they had deposited these precious things there and gone away. We had just evacuated Tuscany; I had passed through it, stopping at Pisa to review an army ; the boxes were inscribed with my name, therefore the intention of stealing them was clear, as I was never told they were there. Had I been told, I might have sent them on board a ship at Leghorn or Lerici. They were rifled and sold. The following year we returned to Tuscany. I made every inquiry and a strict search, but the robbers and pillagers had taken flight, so that I lost one of the finest private collections of curiosities and objects of art then existing. Among them was a complete imitation of a dessert, with all the fruit made of marble, and a magnificent silver pergne; also a valuable collection of ancient and modern marbles, carved lava from Vesuvius, etc. I had spent a good deal of my own money. There were also the presents that I had considered myself at liberty to accept, and the greater portion—of course the most valuable and rarest for a private individual—came from the distribution made by order of the French Government. My regret at my loss was the greater inasmuch as I was able to talk about it. I had no reason to blush for that or for anything else in my long military career.

While I was in command at Naples, I had caused searches to be made, on my own account, at Santa Maria di Gati for tombs containing Etruscan vases. Six were discovered, and were left closed until my arrival; they were not to be opened except in my presence. But events never permitted me to think of them again, and they, too, were thus lost to me.

The French Government at length appointed a new Commander-in-chief, Joubert, for the Army of Italy, to replace Moreau. That of Naples was suppressed—united to the other; and I received the permission, so earnestly longed for, to return to France.

Moreau and I agreed to start together. I then learned by private means that Mantua, for the strength of which the Commandant had so readily answered, had capitulated. The details of this event were so precise, the means through which I had received the information so trustworthy, that doubt was to my mind impossible. However, Generals Moreau and Joubert, and his chief of the staff, Suchet, declared that the news was false, and spread with a purpose, and that they had much more recent and trustworthy information. Of course, I wished to believe them; but, on the other hand, I could not doubt the honesty of my informant. This uncertainty was terrible, on account of the events which would soon come to pass; for if Mantua had really yielded, the besieging force would become an important and valuable reinforcement for the allies. Their very inaction proved to inc that they were waiting for the reduction of Mantua in order to recommence active operations. At length they marched. At the first intimation, Joubert collected his forces and started; I cautioned him to he circumspect, to beware how he advanced too far, and to assure himself of the truth of the intelligence, because, if Mantua had fallen, the forces would no longer be of equal strength.

Moreau and I had chartered some feluccas at Genoa; I had been waiting several days for him, when he sent me word that General Joubert had begged him to remain with him, so I started alone, hugging the shores of the Cornice towards Savona, Oneille, Nice, and Toulon, not without some uneasiness respecting the pirates who swarmed in those waters. I was, however, escorted by a small armed boat, which scoured all the creeks and small harbours. I was within two or three days of Genoa when I heard that Joubert had been killed, [General Joubert was killed at the Battle of Novi, July, 1799. His widow, née Mademoiselle de Montholon, became Marshal Macdonald's second wife. By this wife he had one daughter, afterwards Marquise de Roche-Dragon.—Translator.] the army routed, and the news of the fall of Mantua confirmed.

From Toulon I travelled by easy stages to Paris, where the somewhat coo] reception given me by the Directory was made up for by public opinion. No Government ever weighs in the balance past services with a present check, and never takes circumstances, means, etc., into consideration. They must always have victories. No doubt the principle is a good one, but justice and equity demand that everyone should receive some share of the recognition due to him. Now and again newspaper articles would appear blaming my recent operations. I had a correspondence with Moreau upon the subject, as he and his staff seemed not altogether strangers to these articles. I was tired of his arguments and hesitation. He was now back in Paris. At one moment he advised me not to notice these diatribes; at another he undertook to refute them; then his papers, which ought to have come to him by road, had been mislaid. Losing patience, I at length told him that I would bring an action against him and I did so, honestly and straightforwardly, but especially promptly. His defence was pitiable and confused; judgment was given in my favour, and that ended the matter.

I was not yet cured of my wounds, and fears were entertained respecting my chest. I was put upon a diet of milk and sago.

France was groaning under the weight of her arbitrary government. The Directory had neither credit nor consideration. It had made itself detested by the iniquitous 'Hostage Act,' and by its forced loans. Intrigues were on foot to compass its downfall, and I was asked to put myself at the head of the movement; I declined. I believe, but am not sure, that a similar application was made to Moreau, who also refused.

All at once the news was spread of the unexpected arrival at Fréjus of General Bonaparte from Egypt; all eyes were turned to him, and from thenceforward he was regarded as an anchor of hope and salvation. He sought me out , with considerable eagerness. I was on fairly intimate terms with his wife, and some of his brothers and sisters. He desired precise information upon all that had passed in Italy. At a little dinner, at which Moreau was present, we gave him an account, and the opinion of my amphitryon was thenceforward settled in my favours.

The 18th Brumaire arrived. I took a considerable share in it. I was in command at Versailles, and my first care, on arriving, was to close a Jacobin club, which was never reopened. The great struggle was to take place at St. Cloud; it nearly failed. Had it done so, we should all have fallen victims to the party which, to the misery of France, would have been triumphant.

The question of reorganizing the armies now arose. Moreau was to have that of the Upper Rhine, and I that of the Lower; but he worked so skilfully behind my back that he succeeded in having them united in one, and the entire command placed in his hands. I was indignant at this double-dealing, and had a somewhat acrimonious conversation on the subject with the First Consul, who admitted having yielded to Moreau's pressure, but expressed his regrets to me. He added that he had believed that Moreau and I had agreed upon this together, and that Moreau had certainly given him to understand that such was the case.

'How could it have been so,' I asked, 'after all that passed between us in Italy, and after the explanation of these events that you yourself had from us at your own table?'

'That is true,' he replied, adding, 'Your health is not yet quite restored. Take care of yourself, and I will fulfil my promise presently.'

The first Army of Reserve was being then organized, and he kept for himself the command, having Berthier under him. He attempted and achieved the famous passage of the St. Bernard, and the victory of Marengo crowned the bold and dashing enterprise.

Later on a second Army of Reserve was formed at Dijon, the command of which was given to me. It crossed Switzerland, and took the name of the Army of the Grisons, which pointed pretty clearly to the mission with which it was charged. It was to act in the Rhetian Alps between the Armies of Italy and the Rhine, and to support them both.

A month's truce was arranged. I had orders, or authority, to concert operations with Moreau, who was very anxious for an interview; he was even desirous of doming to my headquarters at St. Gall; but it was difficult for him to leave his army, and I went to Augsburg, where he was established, and thence to Ratisbon, Landshut, and Munich, whence I returned to St. Gall. We settled our plan, and Moreau took it to Paris to explain and get it authorized.

I took with me on my journey General Mathieu Dumas, my chief of the staff, Pamphile Lacroix, and General Grouchy. I had been on distant terms with the latter since we had been in Holland; but flattered by, and grateful for, my reception, he related to me all the trickery and intrigue set in motion at Moreau's headquarters in Genoa to leave the Army of Naples unsupported and to get out of its difficulties as best it could. He told us that the chief promoter had been General Gouvion Saint-Cyr, who had not forgiven me for having replaced him in Rome, as if I had had anything to do with his quarrel with the Government Commissioners who recalled him. Moreau apparently failed to see the trap, and his hesitation, prolonged as it was, became tantamount to a desertion of me. You know the results and consequences of his proceedings.

Moreau's presence in Paris brought about a change in the commands. He was to take over that of Italy, and 1 to succeed him with the Army of the Rhine. I had orders to prepare for this change ; but while I was doing so a courier informed me that the original plan was to be adhered to--- that Moreau was to return to his post, and I to remain at mine. At the same time, I received instructions to commence hostilities, and to begin operations upon the lines agreed upon with Moreau and the Army of Italy, to which they had been communicated

Situated thus between the Army of the Rhine on my left, and that of Italy on my right, communicating and acting as the centre for both, I had more natural difficulties to surmount than enemies to conquer. The latter were entrenched in all the passes of the Alps, which I had to cross in all their breadth as far as Trent on the Adige, especially the Splugen, Tonal, etc., which were covered with snow and ice. More than once discouragement nearly overcame my men. I went in person to all the most dangerous places, sounding the snow, trying the ice, and measuring the depth of the abysses that surrounded us. Avalanches had swallowed whole squadrons. Finally, by dint of perseverance, boldness, or, I perhaps should say, rashness, we succeeded—more by good luck than good guidance, but not without great losses—in gaining the plateau of the Splugen where the monastery is situated, and eventually the right bank of the Adige. Whether I advanced or retreated the danger was equal. I therefore could not hesitate. This adventurous march forced the enemy to retreat precipitately before us, to evacuate that portion of the Alps from the Vorarlberg to the Tyrol, and helped the other two armies in their operations. The first thing done was to conclude armistices, to which I was a party, and the peace of LunvilIe crowned the campaign.

I passed the remainder of the winter and the beginning of spring at Trent, whence 1 was ordered to bring my army back into Switzerland, across Italy. I raised my canton- merits and started; on the road a courier brought me my nomination to the post of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the Court of Denmark with orders to return immediately to Paris. All my tastes were opposed to such a career; but the Post was offered to me as a military operation covered by a diplomatic cloak.


 


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