Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,044 pages of information about Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete.

I now return to our campaign.  On the 13th of June the First Consul spent the night at Torre-di-Galifolo, where he established his headquarters.  From the day of our entry into Milan the advance of the army had not slackened; General Murat had passed the Po, and taken possession of Piacenza; and General Lannes, still pushing forward with his brave advance guard, had fought a bloody battle at Montebello, a name which he afterwards rendered illustrious by bearing it.  The recent arrival of General Desaix, who had just returned from Egypt, completed the joy of the general-in-chief, and also added much to the confidence of the soldiers, by whom the good and modest Desaix was adored.  The First Consul received him with the frankest and most cordial friendship, and they remained together three consecutive hours in private conversation.  At the end of this conference, an order of the day announced to the army that General Desaix would take command of the division Boudet.  I heard some persons in the suite of General Desaix say that his patience and evenness of temper were rudely tried during his voyage, by contrary winds, forced delays, the ennui of quarantine, and above all by the bad conduct of the English, who had kept him for some time a prisoner in their fleet, in sight of the shores of France, although he bore a passport, signed by the English authorities in Egypt, in consequence of the capitulation which had been mutually agreed upon.  Consequently his resentment against them was very ardent; and he regretted much, he said, that the enemy he was about to fight was not the English.

In spite of the simplicity of his tastes and habits, no one was more ambitious of glory than this brave general.  All his rage against the English was caused by the fear that he might not arrive in time to gather new laurels.  He did indeed arrive in time, but only to find a glorious death, alas, so premature!

It was on the fourteenth that the celebrated battle of Marengo took place, which began early in the morning, and lasted throughout the day.  I remained at headquarters with all the household of the First Consul, where we were almost within range of the cannon on the battlefield.  Contradictory news constantly came, one report declaring the battle completely lost, the next giving us the victory.  At one time the increase in the number of our wounded, and the redoubled firing of the Austrian cannon, made us believe that all was lost; and then suddenly came the news that this apparent falling back was only a bold maneuver of the First Consul, and that a charge of General Desaix had gained the battle.  But the victory was bought at a price dear to France and to the heart of the First Consul.  Desaix, struck by a bullet, fell dead on the field; and the grief of his soldiers serving only to exasperate their courage, they routed, by a bayonet charge, the enemy, who were already shaken by the brilliant cavalry charge of General Kellermann.  The First Consul slept upon the field of battle, and

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Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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