“I desire to put a period to the misfortunes of your family, and to organize, as speedily as possible, the Prussian monarchy. I desire peace with Russia, and, provided that the cabinet of St. Petersburg has no designs upon the Turkish empire, I see no difficulty in obtaining it. I have no hesitation in sending a minister to Memil to take part in a congress of France, England, Sweden, Russia, Prussia and Turkey. But as such a congress may last many years, which would not suit the present condition of Prussia, your majesty will, I am persuaded, be of the opinion that I have taken the simplest method, and one which is most likely to secure the prosperity of your subjects. At all events I entreat your majesty to believe in my sincere desire to reestablish amicable relations with so friendly a power as Prussia, and that I wish to do the same with Russia and England.”
These advances were haughtily rejected by both Prussia and Russia; and Napoleon returned to the Vistula to wait until the opening of spring, when the question was again to be referred to the arbitrament of battle. Both parties made vigorous preparations for the strife. Alexander succeeded in gathering around him one hundred and forty thousand soldiers. But Napoleon had assembled one hundred and sixty thousand whom he could rapidly concentrate upon any point between the Vistula and the Niemen.
In June the storm of war commenced with an assault by the allies. Field after field was red with blood as the hosts of France drove their vanquished foes before them. On the 10th of June, Alexander, with Frederic William riding by his side, had concentrated ninety thousand men upon the plains of Friedland, on the banks of the Aller. Here the Russians were compelled to make a final stand and await a decisive conflict. As Napoleon rode upon a height and surveyed his foes, caught in an elbow of the river, he said energetically, “We have not a moment to lose. One does not twice catch an enemy in such a trap.” He immediately communicated to his aides his plan of attack. Grasping the arm of Ney, he pointed to the dense masses of the Russians clustered before the town of Friedland, and said,
“Yonder is the goal. March to it without looking about you. Break into that thick mass whatever it costs. Enter Friedland; take the bridges and give yourself no concern about what may happen on your right, your left or your rear. The army and I shall be there to attend to that.”
The whole French line now simultaneously advanced. It was one of the most sublime and awful of the spectacles of war. For a few hours there was the gleam and the roar of war’s most terrific tempest and the Russian army was destroyed. A frightful spectacle of ruin was exhibited. The shattered bands rushed in dismay into the stream, where thousands were swept away by the current, while a storm of bullets from the French batteries swept the river, and the water ran red with blood. It was in vain for Alexander to make any further assaults. In ten days Napoleon had taken one hundred and twenty pieces of cannon, and had killed, wounded or taken prisoners, sixty thousand Russians.