After the brilliant successes obtained by the Emperor in such a short time, and with forces so exceedingly inferior to the great masses of the enemy, his Majesty, realizing the necessity of allowing his troops to take a rest of some days at Troyes, entered into negotiations for an armistice with the Prince von Schwarzenberg.
At this juncture it was announced to the Emperor that General Blucher, who had been wounded at Mery, was descending along both banks of the Maine, at the head of an army of fresh troops, estimated at not less than one hundred thousand men, and that he was marching on Meaux. The Prince von Schwarzenberg, having been informed of this movement of Blucher’s, immediately cut short the negotiations, and assumed the offensive at Bar-sur-Seine. The Emperor, whose genius followed by a single glance all the marches and, operations of the enemy, though he could not be everywhere at once, resolved to confront Blucher in person, while by means of a stratagem he made it appear that he was present opposite Schwarzenberg; and two army corps, commanded, one by Marshal Oudinot, the other by Marshal Macdonald, were then sent to meet the Austrians. As soon as the troops approached the enemy’s camp they made the air resound with the shouts of confidence and cheers with which they usually announced the presence of his Majesty, though at this very moment he was repairing in all haste to meet General Blucher.
We halted at the little village of Herbisse, where we passed the night in the manse; and the curate, seeing the Emperor arrive with his marshals, aides-de-camp, ordnance officers, service of honor, and the other services, almost lost his wits. His Majesty on alighting said to him, “Monsieur le Cure, we come to ask your hospitality for a night. Do not be frightened by this visit; we shall disturb you as little as possible.” The Emperor, conducted by the good curate, beside himself with eagerness and embarrassment, established himself in the only apartment the house contained, which served at the same time as kitchen, diningroom, bedroom, cabinet, and reception-room. In an instant his Majesty had his maps and papers spread out before him, and prepared himself for work with as much ease as in his cabinet at the Tuileries. But the persons of his suite needed somewhat more time to install themselves, for it was no easy thing for so many persons to find a place in a bakehouse which, with the room occupied by his Majesty, composed the entire manse of Herbisse; but these gentlemen, although there were among them more than one dignitary and prince of the Empire, were uncomplaining, and readily disposed to accommodate themselves to circumstances. The gay good humor of these gallant soldiers, in spite of all the combats they had to sustain each day, while events every instant took a more alarming turn, was most noteworthy, and depicts well the French character.