To Prince Eugene was given the honor of going to meet Marshal Ney, with a corps of four thousand soldiers. Marshal Mortier had disputed this honor with him, but among these illustrious men there were never any but noble rivalries. The danger was immense; the cannon of Prince Eugene was used as a signal, understood by the marshal, to which he replied by platoon fires. The two corps met, and even before they were united, Marshal Ney and Prince Eugene were in each other’s arms; and it is said that the latter wept for joy. Such scenes make this horrible picture seem somewhat less gloomy. As far as the Beresina, our march was only a succession of small skirmishes and terrible sufferings.
The Emperor passed one night at Caniwki, in a wooden cabin containing only two rooms. The one at the back was selected by him, and in the other the whole service slept pell-mell. I was more comfortable, as I slept in his Majesty’s room; but several times during the night I was obliged to pass into this room, and was then compelled to step over the sleepers worn out by fatigue. Although I took care not to hurt them, they were so close together that it was impossible not to place my feet on their legs or arms.
In the retreat from Moscow, the Emperor walked on foot, wrapped in his pelisse, his head covered with a Russian cap tied under the chin. I marched often near the brave Marshal Lefebvre, who seemed very fond of me, and said to me in his German-French, in speaking of the Emperor, “He is surrounded by a set of who do not tell the truth; he does not distinguish sufficiently his good from his bad servants. How will he get out of this, the poor Emperor, whom I love so devotedly? I am always in fear of his life; if there were needed to save him only my blood, I would shed it drop by drop; but that would change nothing, and perhaps he may have need of me.”
The day preceding the passage of the Beresina was one of terrible solemnity. The Emperor appeared to have made his decision with the cool resolution of a man who commits an act of desperation; nevertheless, councils were held, and it was resolved that the army should strip itself of all useless burdens which might harass its march. Never was there more unanimity of opinion, never were deliberations more calm or grave. It was the calm of men who decide to make one last effort, trusting in the will of God and their own