MEANWHILE, all the
movements ordered by Dumouriez had been paralyzed. He himself ran great
dangers, and was compelled, to save his head, to throw himself into the
arms of the enemy, with whom, according to the admission made by himself
in his memoirs, he had been treating secretly.
General Dampierre, who
succeeded him, sent General Lamarlière to take command of Lille and of
the northern frontier. Immediately upon his arrival someone prejudiced
him against the Picardy Colonel, whose name he did not even know. He was
suspected.' [Persons supposed not to be thoroughgoing revolutionists
were commonly known as 'suspects.'Translator.] The General sent for the
Colonel, and when I appeared, great was his surprise. He had not
forgotten the Pas de Baisieux, where he had noticed me; and without
further explanation said to me:
'Return to your post; I
will vindicate you.'
This magnanimity touched
me. He himself became shortly afterwards 'suspected,' and fell a victim,
More Commissioners came
to Lille from the Convention. They were also biased, as General
Lamarlière had been, against me. One of them had served as Captain in my
regiment, and had but recently left it. He was an intimate friend of the
Lieutenant-Colonel who was so vexed when I arrived to take over the
command. This man chanced to be in Lille, profiting by the leave I had
given him. He also took advantage of his friendship with the
Commissioner to try to have me removed as a 'suspect,' owing to my
having been aide-de-camp to Beurnonville and Durnouriez, the former of
whom had also become 'suspected' since his arrest.
My conduct underwent
severe inquiry. Poor General Lamarlire justified it, adding that I had
ceased to be aide-de-camp some four or five months previously. As they
could not injure me on that score, they proposed to appoint me
Adjutant-General (now called Staff-Colonel), a rank corresponding to
that which I already held. My good friend Lamarlière spoke to inc about
it, pointed out the danger of a refusal, and, regarding mere objections
as equivalent to consent, announced my acceptance, without my leave, to
the Commissioners. The deed of appointment was then and there drawn up,
for they had plenary powers, and worded in very complimentary terms,
based upon my excellent conduct, my patriotism, etc.
Possessed of this
document, I went straight to the General, and, while thanking him for
his kindness, declared that I could not take advantage of it; that in
the eyes of the army it would appear that I was incapable of commanding
a regiment ; that my susceptibilities were wounded, my honour
compromised, and that I would rather be deprived of my command
altogether; that he, whose own feelings were of the keenest and most
honourable, could, better than anyone else, feel for my position; that I
already owed so much to him that I should be glad to increase my debt by
another service, and, as I saw that he did not insist, I added
'Besides, it will be just
as much to the interest of the Commissioners as to mine to let this
affair go no further, seeing that the dullest individual will easily
understand that they are acting in private and not public interests'
(they had appointed the Lieutenant-Colonel to succeed me). 'Moreover,
this officer is unpopular with the regiment; he is narrow-minded and
I ended by saying that,
if they thought I should make a good Adjutant-General, I considered that
I could render more service at the head of a regiment.
'By the way,' I
exclaimed, 'why should they not give him the title they have conferred
upon me? He wants to be Colonel. Well and good, his ambition would be
This idea had not
occurred to Lamarlière. It seemed to strike him, and he said:
'Give me the letter
containing the orders, and your commission. I will take them to the
Commissioners, and beg them to make the exchange you propose.'
'No, certainly not. I
cannot part with them. They are much too flattering, and, besides, they
are my justification.'
The Commissioners could
find no serious objection to the plan proposed by the General. It was
adopted, and I was left in peace.
I occupied myself
seriously, with ardour and activity, in exercising and drilling my
regiment, and in accustoming it to warfare by marches and
reconnaissances on the frontier. The enemy occupied the adjacent woods,
and I sometimes obtained some little successes in skirmishing. Other
corps followed my example, and we thus accustomed our men to see and
face the enemy. I forgot to say that my regiment had been divided. I had
but one battalion ; the second was with the Army of the Moselle, and the
Commissioners had appointed a Colonel to it. All communications ceased
between us as soon as our accounts were settled.
Another Captain belonging
to the regiment, named Béru, who was away on leave, returned to Lille.
He was also an intimate friend of the Commissioner, and was by him made
General-of-Brigade, and had command, under Lamarlière, of the troops
collected in our camp. Thus I saw one of my subordinates put over my
head; however, I made the best of it, and set the example of obedience.
The new General came to
the camp with some prejudices against me. A straightforward explanation
ensued; he was honest, and we became and remained friends. Shortly
afterwards General Lamarlière was deprived of his command, arrested, and
taken before the revolutionary tribunal, to which he soon fell a victim.
I regretted him deeply. My superior Captain succeeded him with the rank
of General-of-Division, and I was appointed General of Brigade.
[Macdonald received this appointment from Houchard, Commander-in-chief,
and it was confirmed by the representatives with the Army of the North,
Levasseur and Bentabole, August 26, 1793.]
This came upon me like a
thunderbolt, as, although for several months past I had performed the
duties of the office, I had not had the responsibilities attaching to
the rank. I represented that I was youthful and inexperienced, but they
would not listen. I had to how to their decision under pain of being
treated as a 'suspect,' and arrested. I resigned myself accordingly. My
Captain, now General-of-Division, who had also made some representations
on his own account, was not listened to either, so we agreed to help
I was charged with the
command of the frontier from Menin to Armentires, and my quarters were
fixed at Lannoy, if I remember rightly, for I have no map at hand.
Partial and simultaneous
attacks were made almost daily during August at Linselles, Commines,
Blaton, Pont-Rouge, etc., and almost invariably terminated in our
favour, which gained me some reputation. These attacks were but the
prelude to a real onslaught, which the enemy at last made, advancing
with a large body of troops against my lines. Linselles, Commines, and
Blaton were all carried at once. The General-of-Division and I consulted
together. He sent me some reinforcements, raised his camp at La
Madeleine, marched upon Linselles and Jupon, Commines and Blaton. Having
made all my dispositions, I charged the enemy with the bayonet. They
retreated ; we pursued eagerly. We regained possession of the two
places, and our success was crowned by a large number of killed,
wounded, and prisoners. We got ten pieces of cannon, all the ammunition,
baggage, etc. Affairs went otherwise at Linselles, where we lost the
same number of guns. My poor General was in despair. He came to see me,
and I consoled him as best I could; and before he left me we learned
that the enemy had retired from Linselles, which comforted him.
We entered Lille in
triumph with our captures, so as to dissipate the bad impression caused
by the reverses at Linselles. Everyone hailed us as victors; my troops
who had taken part were intoxicated, and, to say the truth, I enjoyed
the moment as much as anyone, though as modestly as I could. My name
appeared honourably mentioned in the official despatches, and this
caused me to be regarded as an important person, and roused jealousy and
enmity against me.
After these events I
daily harassed the enemy, but they had caused so much vexation to the
General-of-Division that he asked permission to retire, which was
The four Commissioners,
to my great bliss, had been recalled or sent elsewhere; they were
replaced by another, who, having heard of my success at Commines, and
other partial successes, wished for my personal acquaintance. I went to
Lille, where he received me with civility, returning my visit a few days
later; the outposts thought he was making an inspection. In this
interview he expressed to me his desire to be present at a little brush
with the enemy. I undertook that he should see one, and promised to let
him know the day, hour, and place at which it should occur.
The enemy had replaced by
fresh troops those which had been lately worsted, and among the
newcomers was a regiment commanded by the Duke of York. Their men
swaggered considerably, and gave themselves great airs, and I determined
to give them a lesson. Having made my preparations and taken all
precautions, I sent word to the Commissioner, who arrived in hot haste
towards the end of the brush. He saw the rout of the enemy, and a good
many prisoners taken, after we had killed and wounded a considerable
number. He heard balls and bullets whistle past him, and was beside
himself with joy. I asked leave to quote his name in my report; he
himself drew one up in which he praised me, and was not too modest about
his own share. Finally, when the action was over, and my troops were
recalled, he complimented them, gave me the kiss of fraternity, and said
aloud that I might count upon him till death. Such protection was by no
means to be despised during those horrible times of revolutionary
crises, and I thought myself safe from all anxieties,. whatever
denunciations might be brought against me from any quarter.
I have said that the
General-of-Division had 'retired; while awaiting the appointment of his
successor, the General in command at Lille held his place. The successor
came at last. He was General Souham, who struck up a friendship with me
which still endures. Feeling quite easy about the point where I
commanded, he turned his attention to the others, and left me a free
hand. Security was reestablished upon part of the frontier, and I was
determined to see that it was respected.
It was then that the good
idea occurred of amalgamating all the volunteer battalions, whether of
old or new formation, with the regulars, putting two of the former to
one of the latter, and I was charged to carry out the operation; but
such confusion reigned that nobody seemed to know where these battalions
were quartered, because, as it transpired, if they did not like the
place where they had been sent, or if it did not Suit them, they moved
on somewhere else without giving any notice, so that I was ordered to
travel through all the neighbouring departments, in order to send in as
many battalions as possible to Lille.
While these events were
in progress, two new Commissioners Extraordinary arrived, with greatly
extended powers. I had been denounced to them; their first act was
intended to be my disgrace, arrest, and eventual arraignment before the
revolutionary tribunal at Arras, from which no one ever escaped.
I admit that I had made a
terrible enemy of a republican and superlatively revolutionary General
by laughing at him for cowardice in a skirmish at Menin. He had become
the butt and laughing-stock of the troops, even of those who shared his
opinions. It was he, moreover, who had denounced and ruined poor General
Lamarlire; but Divine justice allowed him to perish eventually by the
Another enemy whom I
strongly suspected was a former and very bad comedian, now a General
commanding a revolutionary army, [It was not the revolutionary army of
Ronsin and Rossigriol, which was specially attached to the northern
district.] who used a seal engraved with a guillotine, but who
nevertheless simulated some friendship for me. His functions, however,
and his intimacy with the other, left me no doubt, and I received a
warning. I despised these men too much to pay the least attention; I was
wrong, and too self-confident, for in those terrible times a clear
conscience, upright conduct, without blot or blemish, were no
guarantees; they only excited jealousy by making others ashamed.
General Souham fought
loyally and generously against the accusations, denunciations, etc., and
succeeded in staving off the execution of the warrant against me until
the return of the Commissioners, who were to go to Dunkirk in order to
see and hear me. I was in ignorance of all that was being plotted
against me, and was quite comfortable in my quarters, when the General
sent for me and told me of all that had happened. He then added:
'Look here, you are done
for; therefore consider what steps you had better take, and decide
quickly, for you are going to he suspended from duty.'
He then advised me to put
myself out of the reach of the warrant, the execution of which was only
postponed. The Commissioners, in granting the delay, had imperatively
demanded that my command should be taken from me, and that Lille should
be my temporary prison. Therefore it was open to me to go abroad. But if
I did, what should I do? What would become of me? I should have found
numerous enemies among the emigrants, who never forgave those who
refused to join them in 1791.
I then had recourse to
the papers given to me when I was appointed Adjutant-General, and which
I had kept.
'They will be no use to
you,' said Souham. 'The very men who signed them are now "suspects"
'There is my friend the
warlike Commissioner,' said I. 'I will go and see him.'
'He!' replied Souham.
'Why, he was present at the discussion. I called upon him to speak UI)
for you, but he was silent.'
'Never mind,' I answered;
'maybe he was intimidated by the presence of his colleagues and
superiors. I should like to try him, and perhaps inspire him with a
little pluck, if he wants it.'
'Go and try,' was the
answer, 'and then come back to me.'
I departed in search of
'Look here! you know that
I have fallen into disgrace, and I have come to ask your help. I thought
that my conduct and services would save me, but I learn that damaging
suspicions have been sown broadcast by enemies who remain in shadow,
concealed like those whom we are fighting every day.'
'Indeed!' he replied. 'Do
you wish me to speak quite openly to you? I tell you you are not a
republican, and I neither can nor will mix myself up with you.'
'But,' I answered, 'I
have not changed, as far as I know, since the day when we met on the
frontier at the skirmish at Commines; and on that occasion you assured
'I remember what you
mean,' he said roughly, interrupting me; 'but times are changed,' and
thereupon he turned on his heel.
I returned directly to
Souham and related this conversation to him. He implored me to take some
steps for my safety.
'They are already taken,'
I said. 'I will be, if necessary, one of the thousand victims sacrificed
daily. I shall remain.'
But have you thought it
over carefully and weighed all the consequences?'
I was right in acting as
I did. The Commissioners Extraordinary were recalled to Paris from
Dunkirk, and I was sent back to my post and forgotten.
I continued to maintain
respect for the frontier under my command, which was considerably
extended. In it was included all the territory between Armenti'eres and
the sea, and my headquarters were moved to Cassel. Although I was only
General-of-Brigade, I had eleven of the same rank under my control, and
about forty thousand men scattered over this long frontier-line, which
vastly increased my responsibility.
I had made
representations with a view to being relieved, for, notwithstanding this
force, scattered as it was, we were weak everywhere. A promise had been
given me that I should be replaced by the first General-of-Division who
should arrive, and I experienced great satisfaction when he was at
length announced to me. I was to have returned to my former quarters,
but my destination was altered, and this change of plans was coloured by
a representation as to the necessity of retrieving some checks that one
of my comrades had received. As a matter of fact, this comrade had
started in his military career with the rank of General, and his troops
had no confidence in him. I took his place, and my command extended from
Menin to Tournai.
About this time serious
thoughts arose as to the advisability of assembling the whole army and
taking the offensive. For this purpose a new Commander-in-chief [General
Pichegru.] came down, accompanied by two Commissioners Extraordinary. A
decree had just been published ordering all 'nobles' to move thirty
leagues from the frontiers, to quit the army and Paris. Under these
circumstances I ought to have retired. I had furnished the headquarters
staff with all the information in my possession upon the frontier, the
enemy, their strength, positions, weapons, etc. My services and conduct
had also been mentioned with praise, and the Commanderin-chief begged
the Commissioners to retain me, and exempt me from this measure. They
desired me to come to them, and informed me that, by virtue of their
plenary powers, they required my services. I answered that I wished
nothing better, and that they might count upon my zeal and my efforts,
but that they should give me a written commission. I added that, should
we have the misfortune to meet with reverses, I should assuredly be
accused of treachery, and of having remained with the army in order to
secure its defeat, notwithstanding the decree of expulsion. Despite my
arguments, they refused to satisfy me, whereupon I said:
'Very well, then.. I
shall send in my resignation.'
'If you leave the army,
we will have you arrested and brought to trial.'
I had no choice but to
submit, so I remained where I was, in spite of the twofold odds against
Success alone could
ensure my position and save me. After various ups and downs, Victory at
length declared herself for us. I took the most important share in the
engagements at Lannoy, Roubaix, Tourcoing; at the battle of Hooglède,
where I was alone in command; [At the battle of Hooglède, fought on the
26 Prairial, year iii. (June 13, 1794), Macdonald commanded the centre.]
at the capture of Ypres, Menin, Courtrai, Ostend, Ghent; at the passage
of the Scheldt, and of the canal at Mechlin; then at the taking of
Antwerp; at the battles of Turnhout and Roxtel; at the capture of
Bois-le-Duc, which the Dutch did roe the honour of attributing to me
because I had been in their service and garrisoned there, though in
truth I did nothing but cover the besiegers; and finally at the passage
of the Meuse and the taking of Nimeguen.
The Waal stopped us. We
took up quarters for the winter, which promised to be very severe. Mine
were temporarily at Kronenburg. While there I received, most
unexpectedly, and, above all, without wishing for or desiring it, my
commission as General-of-Division, and my quarters were shifted to