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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XVII


As I passed near Vienna, on my way to Styria, I went into the capital, which I had not been able to visit as 1 came, and thence to Schonbrunn, the Emperor's headquarters, and hitherto the summer residence of the Emperor of Austria. Napoleon received me somewhat coldly, partly perhaps owing to some remnants of former recollections, and also partly because rumour said, both in the army and in Austria, that it was I who had gained the battle. There were plenty of people ready to repeat this most improper speech to the Emperor—a speech to which I was a stranger, as I only appropriated to myself that which had been really personal, and mine by right. The country and the people at Schönbrunn were alike new to me—I mean the imperial Court, which greeted me very coldly: I limited myself to returning their courtesy.

However, the Emperor retained me to breakfast, together with Marshal Marmont, who had just arrived ; Berthier, the Major-General, was the third guest. Conversation at first turned upon the battle, and it was then that the Emperor made the remark to me that I have already quoted, respecting the Guards who did not act, and the slowness of Nansouty. Since then he had again visited the battlefield, and gone over the positions that I had successively occupied, deeply regretting the serious losses I had suffered. My squares, outlined by the dead bodies, were still in regular order.

During breakfast a despatch was brought to him from General Vandamme.

'Do you know what he tells me?' he said. 'Look, read for yourself '

This General, who was in command of the Wurtemburg corps, and was preceding me on the road to Gratz in order to take possession of the town and castle according to the terms of the armistice, announced that on the way he had met the Austrian army from Croatia, led by General Gyulai, on the way to Vienna under orders from the Archduke John. Vandamme added that at a conference a temporary suspension of arms had been agreed upon, each army to retain its position pending fresh orders. We had risen from table, and while I was reading the letter the Emperor called in all the soldiers who had come to pay him their respects. When I returned him the letter he said quickly and aloud, so that all could hear:

Where is your force to-day? Hasten its march—start in person; I put Vandamme under your orders. Such and such divisions will join you; take entire direction of everything. March against that army and crush it.'

However, while I was taking my leave, he drew me aside and whispered:

'Be prudent; try not to renew hostilities; we need rest in order to recover ourselves.'

General Vandamme, informed of the Emperor's arrangements, received me very coldly, although he had often before served under my orders, and instead of considering how to carry out the fresh ones he had just received, he began to declaim against the Marshals Oudinot and Marmont, who had been given that rank after me. He was quite ready to admit that I had earned it, but as for the others, no name was too had for them. He was especially violent against the Emperor, who, at the beginning of the campaign, he said, had promised that within three months he would make him a Marshal and a Duke.

'He is a poltroon,' he went on —'a forger, a liar! and had it not been for me, Vandarnme, he would still be keeping pigs in Corsica.'

This language was used in presence of thirty military men most of them generals and superior officers of his own army corps, and Wurtemburgers Wheri he had cooled down, he told me that an Austrian general officer had come with a message, and was waiting to see me. It was General Zach, chief of General Gyulai's staff. I knew him personally, as he had been made prisoner at the Battle of Marengo, and taken to Paris, where I frequently saw him.

After exchanging greetings with him, I said

'How comes this? Are we at war while our principal armies have agreed to an armistice?'

He replied that the Archduke, under whom his chief was serving, was independent of his brother, Prince Charles, notwithstanding the latter's title of Generalissimo of the Austrian armies, and that he would not recognise the truce.

'But,' I answered, 'the Emperor of Austria has sanctioned it.'

'I am not aware of it,' was his answer.

I put an end to the conversation, the only object of which clearly was to gain time.

'Monsieur le Gánëral,' I said firmly, 'my orders are imperative to march upon Gratz. I shall move to-morrow morning at five o'clock, and shall attack you if I meet your troops ; from that moment the suspension of arms is at an end.'

He calculated that there would not be time enough to communicate my determination to General Gyulai, and to transmit to me that General's answer. lie begged for an extension of two hours, to which I agreed, convinced that by then the enemy would have decamped; and this proved to be the case. I had them followed, but after giving strict injunctions that no hostilities were to be attempted. Our troops soon caught up their rear-guard, and marched it in front of them without striking a blow, and thus we conducted the Archduke John's army into Croatia, while we ourselves went into Styria and Gratz.

The Archduke at length recognized the armistice, and evacuated the fort; his armament was composed of field-guns, which the Emperor ordered me to bring to his headquarters at Schönbrunn. My line of demarcation with the Austrians was the frontier of Hungary, and Croatia as far as Trieste. I improved the defences of the castle; after arming and provisioning it, I established my camp on the left bank of the Mühr, and my headquarters at the castle of Eckenberg.

Negotiations were carried on during the armistice, and during several months nothing occurred save alternations of peace and fresh outbreaks of hostilities. Peace was concluded at last; it was known as the Peace of Vienna.

On the Emperor's birthday (August 15) I received the 'grand cordon' of the Legion of Honour, the title of DUKE OF TARENTUM, and a present of 60,000 francs (2,400). Previously to this, Generals Lamarque and Broussier had been promoted to the rank of Grand Officer of the Legion; but this did not prevent the former from carrying on petty intrigues—it seems to have been his element. He displayed more talent in this direction than in military matters, although he believed himself the best General in the French service, as he modestly remarked to General Pully, who repeated it to me. Shortly afterwards I was able to get rid of him. At the time when I received the three favours that I have mentioned, the Emperor showered a large number upon my corps d'armée; but the recipients did not all seem equally satisfied, and some of them were certainly very small. I do not mention those who were dissatisfied at having received nothing.

While the armistice lasted, and even after the peace, fighting continued in the Tyrol against the insurgents in that country whom we had failed to reduce. My entire army corps was sent there except myself and my staff. I was very grieved to part with such brave troops, and they displayed great regret at quitting me for other leaders. General Grenier's corps replaced mine in Styria; that General was only half pleased at having me for a chief, and also complained that he had only received the 'grand cordon' for his wound.

After the ratification of peace, the Emperor returned to Paris, and the Viceroy to Milan; I had command of the Army of Italy. Shortly afterwards I heard of the Emperor's divorce, and rumours were current of a fresh marriage with a Princess of Saxony or Russia. Indeed, negotiations were instituted with the latter Power, but the opposition of the Empress-mother caused them to he suddenly broken off.

The period for the evacuation of Austrian territory had been settled by a convention, but contingent upon the delimitation of the frontiers, the return of our prisoners, and the payment of a war indemnity. I was on the point of beginning my retrograde movement, when I received counter-orders through two couriers from Paris, who arrived within an hour of each other—one through Austria, the other through Italy.

The counter-order was based upon the idea that the Government at Vienna was not fulfilling the three conditions; but they were misinformed in Paris. I had already received the prisoners who were nearest at hand, and Austrian commissioners had long since arrived at Gratz to determine the frontier, which they could not do until the French arrived, and they tarried. As to the indemnity, it was to be paid at Vienna. I sent word of these facts to Paris ; at the same time, Marshal Davoust, acting as commander of the Grand Army, stated, on his side, that the first payment had been made, and the other conditions performed—if not willingly, at any rate punctually.

This suspension of the evacuation might produce serious consequences, and an evilly-disposed person would have had no difficulty in bringing about a renewal of hostilities. The Austrians were to follow a day's march behind us, consequently they had to stop and put up with very bad quarters. My correspondence with them on this subject was not friendly. Finally, the orders for departure arrived. The States of Styria came to hid me farewell, and to offer me a present of considerable value for the care I had taken of their country, and the exemplary disipline I had maintained. I refused it, and, as they insisted, I said

'Well, if you really think you owe me anything, I can tell you how to acquit your debt in a manner more agreeable to me. Look after the sick and wounded whom I am obliged to leave here for the time being, as well as the detachment and the medical officers of whom they have charge.' They promised. The weather was too severe to remove the sick; humanity forbade it at the risk of exposing the live of these brave fellows.

The members of the States asked me if I knew anything of a piece of news that had reached Vienna through commercial channels—namely, the sudden arrival of Prince Schwarzenberg, Austrian Ambassador in Paris, to ask the hand of one of the princesses for the Emperor. I replied that I was ignorant of it but that such a step, contrary to diplomatic forms and customs, would only increase my doubt. I thought to myself that had there been any truth in it, the Emperor would have been more gallant and less suspicious, and would not have suspended our departure on the grounds I have mentioned; that, moreover, he would have sent a French Ambassador to make a request which, in affairs of this kind, is purely a matter of fortune and ceremony, as everything has been agreed upon beforehand.

They replied that the earliest intelligence always came from commercial quarters, and that, doubtless, the next post would bring a confirmation of the story. They begged me to remain until its arrival ; but, as my last troops were to leave next morning, I did not like to part from them, and I made these gentlemen promise to send an express to me at Marburg, where I intended to sleep. The express came; but the news was not confirmed, though there was some truth in it, as I shall show later. They had confounded the title of the Ambassador with that of the First Secretary of the Austrian Legation, who had, as a matter of fact, been sent as a courier to Vienna.

I continued my movement of evacuation, and found at Laybach Marshal Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, and at Trieste General Count Louis of Narbonne, Governor of the town. They had both recently arrived from Paris, and told me that the negotiations for a marriage with a Russian Princess were talked about, and seemed impending; they treated my news from Gratz as apocryphal.

On returning into the kingdom of Italy, the army that I commanded was broken up. I sent troops into the garrisons assigned to them. I myself received orders to go to Milan, and on reaching there found fresh ones summoning me to Paris. The Viceroy, was not yet returned, but I met him between Cosne and Neuvy, and he told me that the agreement for the Emperor's marriage had been signed, but with an Austrian, and not a Russian, Princess ; it seems that the Empress-mother had opposed and displayed objections to the marriage of her daughter, who afterwards married the Crown-Prince of the Netherlands, and that thereupon the Emperor had sent for him, Prince Eugene, and had despatched him to the Austrian Ambassador to discover whether he had power to treat; that, on receiving an affirmative answer from the Ambassador, the marriage- contract had been drawn up, the Prince of Neuchâtel sent to Vienna to make the official demand, and that he was on his way to Milan to fetch the Vice-Queen, who, with him, was to assist at the rnarriae-ceremony, which was already fixed for April 2.

When I reached Paris, I found the Court and town ringing with the news of the day ; but I was anxious to fathom what I had heard at Gratz. At last, by dint of inquiring, I got the following explanation from the Duke of Bassano:

The Austrian Ambassador, Prince Schwarzenherg, foreseeing that the negotiations with Russia would very likely fall through, and considering that this alliance would be of great value to his sovereign and country, asked for instructions in case application should be made to him. The answer was affirmative and eager. Monsieur de Florett, First Secretary of the Austrian Legation, carried the Ambassador's despatch, and brought back the plenary powers; his mission became bruited abroad, and thus the first news of it had reached Gratz. Fortified with the necessary authorization, Schwarzenberg, like a clever diplomat, let it be known secretly that he had plenary powers. The Emperor, who was always hasty, dissatisfied with the answers of Russia, which he regarded as evasive, seized the opportunity, broke with Russia, and treated with Austria.

The Emperor received me with the utmost kindness; he had* had very satisfactory accounts of the behaviour and conduct of the troops that I had just taken back into Italy. I fancy also that he had heard something about my refusal to accept the present offered to me at Gratz, and of my recommendation for kind treatment of the sick whom the bad weather had compelled me to leave behind in the town. He made minute inquiries concerning my financial position, said that I ought to have a hotel in Paris, that he knew I was not rich, that he had adopted me, and would treat me like the other Marshals. Some had been given 1,000,000 francs (£40,000), others 600,000 francs (£24,000), independently of their more or less high endowments. I discreetly waited, and the question was never mooted again.

About this time, however, I received a proposal for the hand of your sister in marriage; and the Emperor, hearing of this, and knowing that I could give her but a small portion, promised, of his own accord, a dowry of 200,000 francs (£8,000), which he afterwards converted into an endowment.


 


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