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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXIV

I RETURNED to Bourges on March 5, intending to pass my time between that place and Courcclles, which was only twenty leagues off; but twenty-four hours after my arrival, during the night of the 6th, a courier brought me urgent orders to betake myself immediately to Nimes, to receive further instructions from the Duke of Angoulême, whom I had just quitted, and, as a preliminary measure, to march all the troops in my government to Villefranche, in the department of the Rhone. The ministerial despatch gave no reasons either for this precipitate movement or for my departure. The same courier was bearer of a packet for the Duke of Angouléme addressed to Bourges, though his itinerary ought to have made it clear that by that time— the evening of the 5th—the Prince should be at Libourne.

I racked my brains to discover what extraordinary events could have happened, and naturally concluded that it was the result of the Prince de Talleyrand's requests from Vienna for decided demonstrations on the frontiers, and I thought that the massing of troops at Villefranche and Nimes was intended to show that France had means at command to support her demands against Austria. I imagined that similar gatherings were taking place in the departments on the Rhine and on the northern frontiers, but I was very far out in my reckoning.

During the night of March 7, a report from General du Coëtlosquet, Commandant of Nevers, to Lieutenant-General Lepic, his direct superior at Bourges, and which was at once communicated to me, announced


and the arrival of Monsieur, brother of the King, on his way to Lyons. All my former conjectures tumbled to pieces I was thunderstruck by this intelligence, and then predicted the misfortunes which have since befallen France.

I started a few hours later. Had I received the Minister's packet when near Limoges, I should have gone direct from there to Nimes by the Toulouse road; but I had come back to Bourges, and the road by Lyons was more direct.

On reaching La Charit, I learned that the J)uke of Orleans had just changed horses there, hastening on his way to join Monsieur, who had a stare of twenty-four hours. I was anxious to catch up this Prince, whom I had known in the first campaign of the Revolution, when he was serving with the army of Dumouriez, to horn I was acting as aide-de-camp. Fortunately, he stopped to have luncheon at Pougues, otherwise I could not have caught him, as I had had great difficulty in procuring horses at La Charitt, because the Prince travelled with three carriages.

He told me all that had been known in Paris before his departure, from the landing of Napoleon and his rapid march upon Grenoble, the garrison of which it was believed would resist him.

'At any rate,' I said, 'we can count upon General Marchand, as he hates Napoleon personally, and is his declared enemy. Therefore you may count upon his fidelity, as well as upon his endeavours to resist and avenge himself.'

I travelled with the Prince as far as Moulins; there we had to part company for want of horses, and I was obliged to wait for the return of his, so that he had a start of several hours.

At the last stage, while the horses were being changed, I received a letter from Monsieur, who had just learned from the Duke of Orleans that I was following him, in which he begged me to lose no time in reaching Lyons. He sent me also a confidential letter, written by the Captain of his Guards, Count des Cars, to say that his position was very precarious, that Napoleon had advanced so rapidly as to be within one day's march of Lyons, and that the garrison showed such bad feeling that he could not trust it to defend the passage of the Rhone.

I entered the postmaster's house in order to read and answer this letter. So well had the secret of its contents been kept, that, on coming out of the house to give toy letter to the courier, I found a large gathering of engineers collected, and to them the courier was relating all that was known at Lyons concerning the march of events and the spirit of the garrison This was confirmed by the postilion, and was practically the contents of my letter from Count des Cars.

I started at last and very rapidly, but just outside the town an axle of my carriage broke, and it upset. I was none the worse for my fall, but the accident occasioned a further loss of time, as I was obliged to walk the rest of the way. On reaching the hotel where I was in the habit of stopping, I found two officers waiting to conduct me to the house of the Governor, where Monsieur had dined; a third came up immediately afterwards to bring me to the presence of his Royal Highness.

It was between nine and ten o'clock on the night of the 9th of March. The authorities of the town, as well as the generals and colonels, were with Monsieur. He knew from the Duke of Orleans that I was on the way to Nimes.

'The roads are intercepted,' he said to me, 'and you can no longer pass. Remain with us, take the command; I give you plenary powers.'

The Prince then told me that no reliance could be placed upon the troops, and that he had given orders to evacuate the town early next morning. My surprise was extreme.

'Abandon Lyons!' I exclaimed; 'where, then, will you stop after quitting the barrier of the Rhone?'

'We have neither ammunition nor guns,' he replied; 'the troops have declared plainly that they will offer no resistance, and the majority of the population is with them and against us.

The situation beyond a doubt was very serious and critical.

'Let us try something before giving up,' I said; 'let us suspend our retreat; we can always come back to that if necessary, for, if Napoleon is within a march of the town, let him make as much speed as he likes, he cannot arrive until between one and two o'clock in the day, as he has to lead wearied soldiers. Let us assemble our men at six in the morning, see them, speak to them; we may gain something by it. We will try to change their opinion by attacking them on the subject of their honour, always a delicate point with a Frenchman. We will explain to them the misfortunes that must result from a civil war, and the danger to France, no less great, of seeing all Europe raised in arms against her for the second time.'
My advice was unanimously agreed to, and orders were given to countermand the evacuation, and to summon all the garrison to meet next morning in the Place Bellecour. Having accepted the command, I ordered that all communication between the two banks of the Rhone should cease; that all boats should be brought over to our side and moored there; that strong outposts should be placed on the right bank and along the roads; that the Morand and De la Guillotiere bridges should be barricaded and put into the best state of defence that time would permit; and, finally, that a succession of patrols and reconnoitring parties should be sent out so as to give us the promptest information. In a word, I made all the dispositions that can be made in a campaign when troops are in front of the enemy. Particular commands were assigned; each officer had a certain number of troops and posts to establish and watch. These points settled, I finished by ordering a ration of brandy to be served out before the review, and we separated.

On reaching my hotel, accompanied by the generals in command, I asked them to speik to their chief officers and to do their best to induce the men to give Monsieur a good reception at the review. I spent the night in giving orders and obtaining information.

Between three and four in the morning General Brayer, who had command of one of the territorial subdivisions, came to me; he had served with me through part of the campaign of 1813 and that of 1814. He came to tell me that the men refused to be reviewed by the Princes, but that they would be delighted to see me, their old General. I was thunderstruck at this news.

'Who can have put that idea into Their heads?' I asked. Are we on the eve of a fresh revolution? Is every bond of discipline relaxed?'

'No,' he answered; 'they have been excited by some public-house speeches ; the officers are not less excited. So many follies have already been committed ! So little interest has been taken in the soldiers, and so many injustices done in order to make places for émirés, clioucins, and Vendeans, upon whom rank, honours, and distinctions have been showered!'

'From your manner,' I said, 'I gather that you share these opinions.'

'I do,' he replied; 'I agree with them ; but I will do my duty to the end.'

(You will very shortly see, my son, how that duty was performed.)

'It is getting late,' continued Brayer; 'it is more than time to warn Monsieur not to appear before the troops, to prevent him from being insulted and received without respect.'

I rapidly considered all the consequences that this might produce; but how could I undertake to make such a communication to his Royal Highness? What would happen if he attempted to brave this warning, as he very likely would? A brilliant idea occurred to me, and I promptly set about carrying it into effect.

On entering Monsieur's apartments I found his officers standing about waiting till be awoke. I remarked that the communication I had to make to him would brook no delay; Count des Cars entered his bedroom and announced me. I told his Royal Highness that the reports I had received during the night regarding the state of mind of the men were no better, and that I had thought that his presence might be a constraint upon them; that perhaps it would be better if I saw them alone, being accustomed to war and soldiers, and being one of themselves—to use an expression in vogue at that time; that they could express their opinions more freely, and that I would send to let him know at the earliest favourable opportunity. From this the Prince could guess or penetrate my real motive; he learned it later, but not from me. I returned to my rooms to wait till the troops were drawn up in the Place Bellecour.

I was vexed that the weather was wet, but I was still more annoyed on learning that no rations had been served out that it had been impossible to find during the night either the Commissary-General to sign the orders for the regiments, or the storekeeper to give out the brandy.

At the time fixed for the review, General Brayer came to fetch me; he had brought me a horse, and we started in pouring rain. As we reached the Place, on the right of the troops, acclamations broke out, and were repeated as I rode down the lines. Many inquisitive people mingled their voices with those of the men, but no other name or titles except my own were distinguishable.

This beginning seemed to me a good omen; I was deceived by it, and soon found out the fact. I ordered a square to be formed, and rode into the middle of it, so as to be the better heard by everyone.

I began by thanking them for their reception of me, flattering myself that it arose from a recollection of the care that, from duty as well as from attachment to my men, I had always taken of their comfort ; this has been the constant preoccupation of my long military career. I continued by saying that I highly recognized their loyal services, their devotion in good and bad fortune; that though we had succumbed at last, it had at any rate been with honour, and that it had required all the armies of Europe, as well as some great blunders oil own side, which could not be imputed to us, to bring about results that could not have been prevented. I added that they all knew that I had been the last to submit, and that thus we had fulfilled our obligations, but that, released by the will of the nation, we had contracted others, not less sacred, to which the Royal Government would find us equally loyal ; that the invasion that had collected us at Lyons would let loose upon our fatherland misfortunes even greater than those of the previous year, since then ancient France had remained intact ; but this time the allies would make us pay dearly for a fresh appeal to arms. I cannot remember what more I said to Stir these men; they heard me in silence.

I was very excited. I finished my speech by saying that I had too good an opinion of their fidelity and patriotic feelings to think that they would refuse to do as I did, who had never deceived them, and that they would follow me along the path of honour and duty; the only guarantee that I asked of them was to join with me in crying: ' Long live the King!' I shouted this several times at the top of my voice. Not one single voice joined me. They all maintained a stony silence I admit that I was disconcerted.

My attempts on the other squares were equally fruitless. The word seemed to have been given to all the troops.

While making similar attempts on the cavalry, I sent for Monsieur, hoping that, notwithstanding what had been reported to me during the night, he would be received respectfully, if not cordially, as I had at first been. I also wished that the Prince should be a witness of my endeavours, and that our common efforts might succeed in overcoming this obstinate and dreary silence; but we failed a second time. We had come to the last regiment, the 14th Dragoons, if I remember rightly. The Prince went up to an old and decorated trooper, spoke to him kindly, and praised him for his courage, of which he bore the proofs on his breast. The dragoon—I can see him now— stood motionless, impassive, with staring eyes and open mouth. His Colonel and several officers, who were shouting 'Vive Ic Roi!' with us, addressed him by name, exhorted and pressed him, but he remained unshaken. Monsieur was crimson with anger, but had the good sense not to show it.

We did not let the troops march past, but sent them straight to their respective positions and quarters, arranging for the defence of the bridges and fords over the Rhone as though in presence of an enemy. I then told Monsieur that we might perhaps be more successful if we made another attempt upon the officers by themselves. They also had displayed coldness, but they might have felt some awkwardness in presence of their men.

I therefore gave orders that they should all assemble in my rooms, from the General down to the youngest Sub-Lieutenant. I begged his Royal Highness meanwhile to visit all the bridges, so as to make sure that the defence works agreed upon the previous evening had been carried out. The Prince liked the idea, and started for the Rhone, while I went to the meeting.


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