It is not my intention to write the history of this campaign in France, in which the Emperor displayed an activity and energy which excited to the highest point the admiration of those who surrounded him. Unfortunately, the advantages which he had obtained gradually exhausted his own troops, while only creating losses in the enemy’s, which they easily repaired. It was, as M. Bourrienne has well said, a combat of an Alpine eagle with a flock of ravens: “The eagle may kill them by hundreds. Each blow of his beak is the death of an enemy; but the ravens return in still greater numbers, and continue their attack on the eagle until they at last overcome him.” At Champ-Aubert, at Montmirail, at Nangis, at Montereau, and at Arcis, and in twenty other engagements, the Emperor obtained the advantage by his genius and by the courage of our army; but it was all in vain. Hardly had these masses of the enemy been scattered, before fresh ones were formed again in front of our soldiers, exhausted by continuous battles and forced marches. The army, especially that which Blucher commanded, seemed to revive of itself, and whenever beaten reappeared with forces equal, if not superior, to those which had been destroyed or dispersed. How can such an immense superiority of numbers be indefinitely resisted?
The Emperor had never shown himself so worthy of admiration as during this fatal campaign in France, when, struggling against misfortunes, he performed over again the prodigies of his first wars in Italy, when fortune smiled on him. His career had begun with an attack, and the end was marked by the most magnificent defense recorded in the annals of war. And it may be said with truth that at all times and everywhere his Majesty showed himself both the perfect general and the soldier, under all circumstances furnishing an example of personal courage to such an extent, indeed, that all those who surrounded him, and whose existence was dependent on his own, were seriously alarmed. For instance, as is well known, the Emperor, at the battle of Montereau, pointed the pieces of artillery himself, recklessly exposed himself to the enemy’s fire, and said to his soldiers, who were much alarmed at his danger and attempted to remove him, “Let me alone, my friends; the bullet which is to kill me has not yet been molded.”
At Arcis the Emperor again fought as a common soldier, and more than once drew his sword in order to cut his way through the midst of the enemy who surrounded him. A shell fell a few steps from his horse. The animal, frightened, jumped to one side, and nearly unhorsed the Emperor, who, with his field-glass in his hand, was at the moment occupied in examining the battlefield. His Majesty settled himself again firmly in his saddle, stuck his spurs in the horse’s sides, forced him to approach and put his nose to it. Just then the shell burst, and, by an almost incredible chance, neither the Emperor nor his horse was even wounded.