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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter VII


I SENT forward messengers to inform the commandant of Sant'-Angelo of all that had happened in the sixteen da)s that had elapsed since we quitted Rome, and of our approach ; we intended to return the following day. I told him to assist us by means of sorties, and to try to seize the King of Naples, who was there, and anyone else that he could lay hands upon; but, unfortunately, be was lulled to security, and asleep. The investment had been raised, and he received intelligence of the misunderstandings in the town by means of our partisans. He was besides overjoyed at having held his own, and, until our arrival, it was absolutely hopeless to arouse him from his sense of safety, and thereby he missed making several important captures. 0 justify himself, he told inc that he was afraid that a trap was being laid for him, that he had suspected my spies of serving the. enemy, although there was no mistaking the signs agreed upon between us, especially when my cannon was drawing near and becoming perfectly audible. But such is the pusillanimity of some men; everything frightens and terrifies them when they are not actually kept in leading-strings!

The Commander-in-chief, hearing that Rome was evacuated, had preceded me; I was to join him at Ponte Molle. He informed me that a column of the enemy, which had come up too late to cross the town and follow General Mack, who had retired to Albano, had stopped at sight of some of our scouts, and that Bonnami, his chief of the staff, having parleyed with them, had granted them three hours to decide whether to lay down their arms.

An excellent plan,' I replied; 'nothing could be better devised for the purpose of enabling them to escape by the Presides.

Our junction with General Kellermann had been meanwhile effected. He, as I have already said, followed, without overtaking, the troop since his departure from Borghetto for Civita-Castellana, because he had taken the old road to Rome, while the others marched in a parallel line with him by Monterosi, Bucano, La Storta, and had taken up a position masked by considerable heights.

General Monnami came to us, and said with emphasis We have got this troop within an hour they will have laid down their arms.'

No doubt,' I replied, 'if they are still there. But do you suppose that a troop with free communication behind it, and commanded by an em gre, Comte Roger de l)amas, will have the kindness to come and yield to us?'

Why not?' he retorted. 'I told them they should have no quarter if they did not. And their vedettes are still there.'

'What proof is that? Of course they are there to conceal the movements; they will remain there as long as they are left; besides, to carry out your threat, they should be surrounded, and their rear is quite open!'

The Commander-in-chief had listened in silence to this conversation, but at last, stung by my remarks, he said

'Well, let us go and see what has really happened.'

We went, and found exactly what was to be expected, not a creature! Then we had to follow; but the small number of our troops in front were resting, or dispersed, believing that an armistice had been concluded, and mine had halted behind, so that it took us some time to collect a small force of cavalry. At about the distance of a league they came upon a very well-posted rear-guard; a brush took place, but with no result, and, as night was coming on, we recalled the detachment.

I asked for orders, and was told to guard the Ponte Molle and the town I remarked that the important point was the road to Naples, but was told that it would be attended to. Nevertheless, I sent a regiment to the Lateran Gate, another in reserve to the Coliseum, and the Piazza di Venezia. Thus supported, I went to see the Torlonias and get some news, as the commandant of Sant'-Angelo knew nothing, and I re-entered my former dwelling, which I had quitted seventeen days previously. I had kept my promise within two days!

About e!even o'clock the same night, I received news from the Lateran Gate and from General Championnet that a body of the enemy was advancing on that side: the General himself, in great anxiety, rode up with his staff.

'Make yourself easy,' I said; 'I have seen to everything; my reserves are now marching towards that point. I know the way; let us go.'

But it was unnecessary. On reaching the gate we found that the regiment I had placed there, the 11th, if I recollect rightly, had sufficed to repulse the assailants to the number of 5,000 or 6,000 men, as I learned from some prisoners, led by General Mack in person. This was nearly all that remained to him of the formidable army which had so boastfully declared that in a very short time it would drive us out of Italy. General Mack did not think that we were again occupying Rome, or else he hoped to surprise us, and enable Comte de Damas to get through. This expedition having failed, the General, no longer hoping to effect a junction, gained the road to Capua, and we returned to Rome.

I was just about to get into bed, when a partemen faire was brought to me, asking leave for another column to pas. through the town on its way from Viterho to Ponte Molle.

'Are you in earnest in making such a request?' I asked.

'Certainly; they tell me a truce has been proclaimed.'

'You have been misinformed; lay down your arms, that is the best thing you can do.'

What! lay down our arms ? We will defend ourselves. We are in force.'

'Very good,' I said; then, turning to the officer who had introduced this man, I continued: 'Take him back, and give orders from me to the commandant of Ponte Molle to put all these gentlemen to the sword; I am going to bed.'

'Is that your final decision?' asked the messenger. 'Yes, it is.'

'In that case I will surrender.'

I discovered that he was the chief of the band of from 1,200 to 1,500 men, which had been skirmishing about my right flank while we were at Civita-Castellana, and had given us a considerable amount of trouble. Next morning I sent a report of what had occurred to the Commander-in-chief, adding that. I had not cared to disturb his slumbers for so small a matter.

A general order emanating from headquarters announced all these happy resuIts, to our great surprise, my division was hardly mentioned, although the army did us justice and gave us the honours of this short campaign ; but what will scarcely obtain belief is that the staff received all the promotions and rewards. This injustice and partiality made me as angry as the rest of the army. I went straight to the General, and a second and very sharp altercation followed, but without producing any favourable result for my division, and, as if to punish it for the advantages it had secured, it was ordered to march at the rear of the column. We had to swallow this insult; but a few days later, as we met some rear-guards, they sent us forward to the front again.

We thus arrived at the intrenched camp at Capua, where we received overtures for a suspension of hostilities which tempted the Commander-in-chief. 1, however, opposed them strongly at the meeting that was called of all the Generals-of-Division. Nothing was settled that day, but on the following a delay of forty-eight hours was granted in my absence. I was furious; but I had to submit, and made all my preparations for a desperate attack at the expiration of the delay allowed.

The excuse given for this ill-timed concession was the absence of news of Generals Duhesme and Lemoine, who were marching upon Naples by the Abruzzi ; but the excuse was a bad one. The terror of the Neapolitans was increasing, disturbance was rife in the country, fear in the capital, the court was fleeing to Sicily ; therefore there should have been no cessation of hostilities. This state of things might have been taken for granted even had it not been officially known to exist, and there was every reason, nay, necessity, for advancing to assist our troops in crossing the Abruzzi by the prompt and decisive occupation of the capital, instead of allowing time for a reorganization of the remains of the army, for the defence of Capua and its intrenched camp, and insurrection and rebellion among the inhabitants.

At the conclusion of this ill-advised armistice I ordered a reconnaissance; General Maurice Mathieu commanded it, and I followed to support him. All the Neapolitan outposts gave way, and vanished as fast as their horses could carry them. They gave the alarm in the camp and town, whence the defenders began to retire, when General Mack conceived the idea of sending a messenger with an offer of capitulation. In accordance with an old custom, the advance-guard stopped the officer and conducted him to General. Math ieu, who sent him on to me. I, unfortunately, was at some distance supporting a detachment of our troops, who had met with some resistance in trying to cross the Volturno. I was furious, and ordered the attack to be continued. I desired, and should have been able, had it not been for this circumstance, to force the intrenched camp, cross the Volturno by the bridge, and seize Capua; but the Neapolitans had had time to review their position, and to put themselves behind their intrenchments and ramparts. I was in advance of the reinforcements that I was bringing up, and arrived just in time to see General Mathieu's arm broken by a discharge of grape-shot; at the same moment I received an order from the Commander-in-chief to cease firing, and return to my position, just as I had hopes of being able to carry the enemy's camp.

I heard next day that Capua was to be handed over by capitulation, and that an armistice for an indefinite period had been signed, instead of our rapidly occupying the capital. I was bitterly disappointed at being thus balked of a conquest not only easy in itself, and which would have put a crown to our efforts, but which must have produced a striking moral effect in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and in Europe, especially in Italy and Austria. A fresh altercation took place at Capua; as hostilities were at an end, I asked to be relieved of my command, a request that was granted with pleasure and alacrity, and I wrote to the War Minister and to the Directory, asking to be employed elsewhere. While awaiting an answer, I stayed at Capua.

Shortly afterwards the truce was violated, I forget on what pretext. The lazzaroni organized themselves for the defence of Naples, the troops were disarmed, General Mack resigned and asked for a passport into Austria, which the Commander-in-chief granted. The French Government, however, on being informed of this refused its consent, caused Mack to be arrested at Ancona, contrary to the law of nations, and taken as a prisoner of war to Paris. On passing through Capua the General paid me a visit; it was live o'clock in the morning, and I was in bed. I was soon up, however, and said to him

'Well, General, a fortnight ago you would not have caught we napping.'

'Ah he replied; 'you did for me altogether at Calvi.'

In the cours of conversation upon past events, he told me that an attempt had been made to poison him at Capua, and to assassinate him at Naples, he was then very far from well, and I saw him again the following year, in Paris, in the same state.

'How,' I asked at our first interview, 'could a general so distinguished by his talents expose his military reputation as a great tactician by putting himself at the head of such an army?'

'I was urged, entreated by the King of Naples,' he replied; 'I resisted, but my Sovereign commanded me. I was compelled to submit; and on seeing the army, well drilled, well organized, well equipped, displaying such devotion, and, above all, such determination to make war upon you and to liberate Rome and Italy, I was seduced.'

'Perhaps also,' I added, laughing, 'the prospect of corning into France and to Paris had something to do with it.'

'All that army wanted,' he replied, 'was to have been led by a French general.'

After that compliment he took leave of me and departed. I recommended him to the special care of all our cornmandants He passed near GaŽta first, as that fortress was yielding to our troops, under General Rey, although it had only been threatened with shells.

After the violation of the armistice, as I have said, the army marched upon Naples; the lazzaroni made some resistance, but the city was eventually occupied. Being so near, I could not hell) visiting it. I spent a week there, and learned what abominable exactions were being levied. I deplored them, and left for Rome, where I awaited my next instructions.

One day, on returning tired from a ride in the neighbourhood, I had allowed myself a siesta, when I was aroused by the arrival of a courier. I looked at the despatch, and, to my great surprise, read my nomination as Commander-in-chief of the Army of Naples in place of General Championnet. The Directory, dissatisfied with the want of continuity in the conduct of the campaign, with the armistice at Capua, and with the extortions that had been committed, had decided to recall and make him give an account of his conduct. 1 am bound to say that this proceeding was too severe, that the greater part of the army was innocent of these iniquities, that they were regretted by everybody; but none had any confidence in the leader whose weakness was universally deplored, so that with truth, and without either vanity or conceit, I may say that great pleasure was manifested in my appointment, especially by those troops that had served under me while I had had the command in the Roman States and during the campaign.

I started and passed General Championnet at Aversa. We neither stopped nor spoke. I knew that a magnificent reception was being prepared for me at Naples; out of modesty I avoided it by arriving at eleven o'clock at night, whereas I was only expected the next morning.

Everything was disorganized. Communications between the divisions were interrupted, and those that occupied Salerno and the places nearest at hand were cut off even from the capital. I rearranged all the communications, reassembled a few scattered troops, and restored order in the town. In order to re-establish confidence and tranquillity, I issued proclamations, backed up by effectual demonstrations. I organized a new government in concert with Abrial, the Commissioner sent by the Directory, a very good and worthy man, afterwards count and peer of France.

I next turned my attention to military matters. Our successes against the insurgents were universal, but no sooner was the insurrection crushed at one point than it broke out at another. Communication with Rome had been frequently interrupted. Large escorts, and even cannon, were necessary generally to ensure a safe journey from Mola di GaŽta and Fondi to Terracina; but sometimes impatient travellers would start alone or with slender escorts, and then fell victims to the banditti and brigands, who inflicted upon them the most abominable cruelties.

I passed several months amid these disturbances, not only in the kingdom of Naples, but also in the Roman States and in Tuscany, whither my command extended; but I succeeded in maintaining perfect order in the capitals, especially in Naples, by means of a national guard that I formed, and of the leader of the lazzaroni, whom I gained over by presents, and by conferring on him the rank and distinctive marks of a colonel. I also formed the remains of the Neapolitan army into detachments of troops, in order to employ those among their officers who displayed the greatest zeal for the new order of thingsóthat is, for the Parthenopeian .republic; but these troops soon betrayed us, giving up the tower of Castellamare to the English, after massacring some of their own officers.

I had resolved to induce Admiral Caracciolo to take service in the new fleet; he equipped a flotilla which secured respect for the port and coasts of Naples, frequently threatened by attempts of the English, who occupied the islands and were stationed in the roads. I had a somewhat acrimonious correspondence with one of their captains, Commander l'hrowbridge (sic).

Castellamare was a very important point and so near Naples that its loss was likely to raise the flagging spirits of the insurgents. They were prepared to band together, and this treachery was the signal but I lost not an instant, and marched in person upon Castellam‚rc. As I crossed Naples I noticed many people who had already placed the red cockade in their hats. It became necessary now to strike a decisive blow, so as to prevent this rising from gaining ground in Naples, where my garrison was but small (except in the forts, which were well occupied, especially that of Sant'-Elmo, that existed as a standing menace to the town the fear that this fort might set fire to Naples had acted as a salutary check upon the inhabitants). The insurgents from Calabria and Salerno had advanced to the tower of the Annunziata, and were posted near a brook; I attacked them to rout and put them to flight was the work of an instant.

While they were being pursued and sabred in all directions, those who held Castellamare took fright; some, after a few discharges of cannon, seeing the English put to sea, rushed into the water to save themselves; the rest yielded; the principals in the rising were shot. The flags of England and Naples still remained flying side by side : I promised a reward of twenty-five louis (20) to whomsoever should bring them to me half an hour later they were in my hands, though they were not obtained without some loss.
Once more in possession of the tower, I turned the guns upon the vessels and those who had taken to flight. I must say here that the skilful and brave Admiral Caracciolo contributed largely with his flotilla to the success of the expedition. He afterwards fell a victim to the English admiral Nelson, who cruelly and ignominiously caused him to be hanged from the yard-arm of his own ship, a death with which I have always deeply reproached myself; as it was I who overcame his reluctance, and gained him to our side.

After re-establishing order, giving all the commands necessary to put an end to the rising, and pursuing those in flight to beyond Salerno, I re-entered Naples, preceded by the banners and flags of the insurgents, which were burned next day on the Piazza Reale by the public executioner. The red cockades had disappeared, and the heat occasioned by this incident had quite cooled down in the capital.

Still more important events were, however, looming in the distance. Russia was marching an army into Italy to join the Austrians, our troops were assembling on the Adige under General Scherer, and hostilities soon began. While these events were in preparation I was not inactive ; I concentrated my troops. A fresh insurrection broke out in the provinces; another assmblage was dispersed at Cannc at the mouths of the Ofanto. I attempted to carry out orders by revictualling Malta and the Ionian Islands convoys started, but not one reached its destination ; they were either taken or surrendered.

I begged the French Government to evacuate Naples and Rome, keeping only the fortresses. If our troops are victorious on the Adige, I said 'they will require to make good their losses; if they are beaten, they will need reinforcements and support. There are no troops nearer to them than mine, and these, in the latter case, will be cut off from all communication. In the former case, supported by the fortresses, I could return and reoccupy the two States.' But the principle of keeping everything, and of not yielding a foot of ground, even to imminent danger, gained the day, and my suggestions were set aside.

Nevertheless, seeing what might come to pass, I continued my preparations, under the pretext of concentration, to parry any attack that might be made on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, or the interior. I indicated a place which I had not the remotest intention of occupying, feeling persuaded that I should receive serious remonstrances from various private interests affected ; nor was I disappointed. I pretended to give way, and succeeded in having pointed out to me the very place whither I wished to go--namely, the neighbourhood of Caserta, on the left bank of the Volturno. No doubt it would have been better from a military point of view to take the right bank, but to do that I should have had to disclose my plan; moreover, I had no army in front of me, and should always have time to cross the river.

I provisioned the forts at Naples, Capua, GaŽta, Santt-Angelo at Rome, Civita-Vecchia, Civita-Castellana, and Ancona. Rome was in want of food; famine was beginning to make itself felt there. I sent provisions. The national guard and the lazzaroni at Naples were increased; I reviewed them, they took over the duty, and I withdrew my men. I called in the divisions scattered in the provinces, and concentrated all before Caserta, where I established my headquarters. Finally, I caused the miracle of St. Januarius to be worked for our benefit, being myself present on the occasion; I will give a description of it later on, as I think that no one has ever been in so good a position to observe it as Commissioner Abrial and myself. I had taken careful measures in consequence of the great concourse of people, and tranquillity was not disturbed. The camp of Caserta was raised, and brought to the vicinity of Naples during the ceremony, and the troops did not return till the evening.

This display of force and other similar demonstrations maintained order in the capital and neighbourhood. The victualling of the forts and fortresses went on quickly, as did also that of Rome ; but it was more difficult to keep open communications, especially with the Adriatic provinces strong escorts were necessary, and flying columns showed themselves everywhere.

While these arrangements and preparations, which excited no suspicion, were going on, I caused all useless matter that could embarrass or encumber the march of an army to be sent to Rome, and thence into Tuscany. The Commander-in-chief of the army in Italy had asked for a considerable number of ammunition waggons; they were despatched to him, drawn by horses hastily requisitioned. General Eble, whose skill is so well known, constructed a pontoon-bridge at Capua in order to facilitate the crossing of the rivers Volturno, Garigliano, and Tiber, which would help us in our march, and enable us to effect a junction with the Army of Italy, supposing it were beaten; or, if it stood in need of reinforcement, would enable us to cross the rivers, or, on the other hand, would be of service to us both alike, supposing we were obliged to retreat.


 


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