« ZurückWeiter »
posing the faithless accounts and wanton fabrications of the French; and the gross errors and wilful misrepresentations of different writers ; among others, of General Dumas, the author of the Précis des Evenemens Militaires (now belonging to the French Staff) whose publication has acquired much more credit than it deserves. As the remarkable action of the 19th of September, which may be truly said to have decided the fate of the Expedition, has been an object of more general discussion in Europe than any other, and has been the ground of more recrimination between the Russians and the English, we shall select the author's account of it, as being peculiarly interesting in itself, and as affording a fair specimen of the attention which he has paid to every part of the subject.
“ It had been ordered that the attack should begin on all sides at break of day, but nearly two hours before that time the Russian Major General Southoff with his chasseurs and a battalion of grenadiers, which formed the advanced guard, passed the canal in front of Petten, and advanced towards Camperduyn. Whether he thought it indispenfably neceffary to fupport General Southoff, or that he par. took of his impatience and that of his troops, General Herman an hour after caufèd the canal to be paffed by the first line of his corps, and marched to the attack of the enemies' entrenchments upon the Slaperdike. Although it was not yet light, the firft Ruflian battalion advanced with the greatest boldness in column of divisions, and car, ried a traverse which the enemy had constructed on the dike. The latter ftill occupied-a fmall work on the extremity of the dike which covered in part the entrance of the village of Groet, where they had a piece of cannon. . The grenadiers, followed by the remainder of the firft line, pushed on without stopping to the end of the dike, and with the same impetuofity carried the work and the piece of cannon, The French surprised by the vivacity of this attack opposed in front a Aight resistance, and fell back towards their right. The Russians suffered little from their fire, but much from their own; the obfcurity being fuch that nothing could be distinguished. The chasseurs of the advanced guard, several of whom found great difficulty in extricating themselves from the marshy ground, which ļies between the sea dike and the Slaperdike, also directed their fire towards the ground which was already occupied by their first line. The soldiers clamorously called for the fupport of their artillery, ale though it was impossible to direct its fire upon any distinct object, and it natyrally did more harm than good. Part of the Russians apon quitting the Slaperdike, proceeded in a very close column, nd with very little order upon the road under the Sand-hills, wh ch leads through the village of Groet, while the rest filed to the right among the fand-hills of which they never covered the whole extent, because the advanced guard, which was to march along the strand, in the dark confounded itlelf with the firit line, with which it continued mixed
the whole day. The first of these corps took no precaution stofecure its left flank, nor the second its right flank. That which marched along the road, advanced rapidly, but in great confusion and without forming or preserving any order : it soon reaclied Groet, carried that village easily, and continued its progress. The French troops, which were in the village, not having time to fall back quick enough to join those who were attacked in front, probably apprehensive of being cut off, had thrown themselves upon the left flank, where without being further noticed by the Russians, they dispersed as tirailleurs in the enclosures, the hedges, and the ditches; and the latter suffered severely both from their fire and from that of their own friends in the Sand. hills, who, although in fact rather behind them, nevertheless directed their fire in part to the left.
“ Unfortunately, immediately after the attack of the village of Groet, where his horfe had been wounded, General Herman with the greatest part of his staff had gone into the Sand.bills; and no officer who was particularly entrusted with the direction of its movements remained with the column, which followed the road, crouded by the troops, which, fatigued with marching in the Sand-hills, left them whenever a natural interval or a path enabled them to seek for more easy ground. As soon as the village of Groet was taken, LieutenantGeneral Herman had ordered the second line to advance under the orders of Major General Arbeneff; but this line in opposition to his orders, either from its own impatience or the nature of the ground, instead of forming a reserve to support the first, soon mixed with it, and completed the confusion. The British brigade of Major-General Manners, with the 7th regiment of dragoons and the horse artillery, which according to the orders of General Herman were to follow this second line, were much retarded by the march of the Imperial troops, which from marching in column necessarily employed much time in filing off, and occupied almost the whole extent of the road. When at last that brigade was enabled to quit the Slaperdike, it directed it. self to the left, and was soon engaged with that part of the enemy's corps, which had remained upon the flank of the Russian column. Ma. jor-General Manners repulsed them; and as they retreated to Schoreldam, he was induced to take the fame direction.
" During this time the Russians pushing on without hesitation, arrived at the viMage of Schorel, attacked it with the fame bravery they had done that of Groet, carried it with the same facility, and marched towards Bergen ; their ardour not being at all abated, nor their progress checked by the severe loss which they experienced. About a mile from Bergen begins an avenue of trees, which continues nearly in the same direction, until it reaches the Sand-hills above the village where it turns short to the left and leads in a straight line to it. A number of houses are scattered on each side of this avenue'; and at about 300 paces from Bergen the ground opens considerably to the left. The French had placed, at about 800 paces from the avenue, a battery of several pieces of cannon, which was protected by a line of cavalry mixed with some infantry. The enclosures here were more
Frequent and woody than at the beginning of the avenue, and were lined on the right and left with tirailleurs ; so that when the Russians reached this point they found themselves exposed at once to the fire on their flanks, to that from Bergen in front, and to that of the battery which was likewise directed upon the head of the column--Stopped for a moment by the destructive effect of this fire, and by the appearance of the French upon their flank, the Russians loudly called for their artillery, which there was great difficulty in bringing up, owing to the sandy nature of the ground, the rapidity of the march which had fatigued the horses, and the confused mass which obstructed the road, The fire of the cannon checked the French who were advancing on their left ; and the Russianis again pushed forward. At this period of the action General Essen reached the head of the column and immediately ordered the troops to halt and form--wo pieces of cannon were placed at the above mentioned opening, and another upon the road leading to Bergen. A battalion was fent into the fields to the left of the road; but the same precaution was not taken to cover the right ; and the remainder of the troops proceeded in their march to Bergen. The column continued to be encreafed by a number of men who quit. ted the Sand. hills, and it was at laft joined by Lieutenant-General Herman, who also having hitherto been engaged there, was ignorant of what had been passing on the left. This brave officer was received with marks of joy by the foldiers who adored him; bar nevertheless it was in vain that he used every effort to restore order among
them : they seemed to be deaf to his voice and no longer to acknowledge his authority ; and the fire of the enemy having in the mean time obliged the battalion placed on the left to fall back into the avenue, the confüsion became as great as ever. In the interval the head of the column arrived about eight in the morning at Bergen, penetrated into and took posseflion of it. The troops being then protected by the houfes on the right, and continuing exposed to the fire of the French only in front and on the left, the Russian General fucceeded in forming a bar. talion of fufileers in front of the church almoft opposite to the canal, and another of grenadiers in a street a little on the right of the church. The rest of the troops were distributed between the houses and in the openings of the different avenues leading to the centre of the village. Such were the halty dispositions of General Herman to endeavour to teep the long but narrow extent of ground of which the poffeffion had been so rapidly gained, until it thould be possible for the brigade of General Manners and for the column of General Dundas to come up to his assistance.
" The march, or rather the rapid and irregular progress of the Russians, had, as may be imagined, surprised and disconcerted the French. Driven froin poft to post with an impetuofity which did not give them time for recollection, they had fcattered themselves, as has heen observed, on both sides of the road, less perhaps from design thání froin instinct, and less because it was the best than because it was the thing most easy to be done. Thus they had suffered that impetu, ous torrent to pass before them.' Generals Brune and Vandamme see
ing the left of their pofition pierced in all its depth, and the rear of their centre outflanked, and having reason to fear that in the end their line might be entirely turned and cut off if they allowed the Englilla cime to support the Ruffians, - had brought up their reserve from Alk. maar with all possible haste, and had likewise drawn from the Koedike a detachment of the division of General Damonceau. A part of these troops were directed towards the Sand-hills, and the rest joined those near Bergen. As soon as these reinforcements were arrived at their destination the Republicans marched to the attack of the two Russian columns. That which was in the Sand-hills, and which till then had not ceased to advance with the fame quickness and the same confusion as that upon the left, found itself turned by a corps of the enemy which marched along the shore. Being in very little order and hav. ing expended its ammunition, it fell back, and the French advanced between it and the column of the left which had crouded into Bergen. The latter column, which, for 20 minutes, had been exposed to the moft violent fire of cannon and musquetry, now saw itself threatened in the rear, while on the left the enemy was penetrating by the opening into the avenue. To secure that important point General Herman immediately feat there the battalion of fusileers which he had formed in front of the church; but the Republicans foon furrounded the vil. lage under cover of a very severe fare from their artillery which could not be returned; for out of three pieces of cannon which the Russians had, two were without ammunition: the third, which was placed at the entry of the village towards the Kocdike, did not stop the enemy, who got possession of it and penetrated from that lide into the village : General Herman, who had juft gone from the church-yard to the troops upon the right, was cut off and taken prisoner with a part of his corps after making a moft vigorous refiftance near the caitle of Bergen, from which he endeavoured in vain to effect his retreat across, the Sand-hills. Major-General Effen, whom he had left near the church, taking advantage of this circumstance, which occupied the enemy, collected as many of his men as he could and forced his way through the avenue to the Sand-hills, from which the French troops retired at his approach, and upon the ridge of which he succeeded in some measure in forming his men. After having halted there for å short time he continued his retreat towards Schorel.
“ Such was the event of the attack on the right, and the unfortu. nate consequence of the inconsiderate and improvident bravery Ruflians. As the operations of this column had a great effect upon the fate of this day, and it may even be said upon that of the whole campaign, and as they have as yet been but imperfectly related, it has been thought proper in this place to give a very complete detail of them."
The conduct of the Ruflians, under General Ellen, in a subsequent engagement on the 2d of October, was the very reverse of what it was on the 19th of September, and, in each cale, it was equally fatal to the cause, in which they were sent to co-operate.
The following instances of moft flagrant attempts to impose on the credulous multitude on the Continent of Europe, by the most impudent falfhoods, both by the Dutch and French Republican Commanders, cannot be too generally known.
“ In the relation which General Daendels has given of this action, he says, 'that the English yielded with the greatest precipitation to the attack of his grenadiers, when he returned into Oudescarspel ; that he took there 100 prisoners and two pieces of cannon belonging to the Englis, besides retaking his own, &c. &c.' All this is absolutely falle: General Daendels did not recover the village by open force, nor even' attack it. The English evacuated it in consequence of the orders they had received, without a single shot being fired, and with. out the Dutch even inaking their appearance. Twenty-eight men too severely wounded to be transported, were obliged to be left in it; all the English cannon were carried off, and those taken from the enemy, as has been said, were thrown into the canals, their carriages and ammunition being destroyed. The loss of the column of Sir James Pulteney was 38 men killed, 174 wounded, and 28 milling, in all 240 including 21 officers. The Dutch General however has not hesitated to say, that the English left 500 dead upon the field. In other respects the recital of Daendels is very correct, and on the whole much better drawn up than that which he made of the affair of the 27th of Auguft.
“ In the report which Gen. Brune made at the times of this action he said, that the Allies loft more than 3,000 men in killed and wounded, 2,000 prisoners, and 25 pieces of cannon, that General Ellen had been severely wounded, and the English General Knox killed.' Meaning doubtless to give to their story a greater appearance of truth, he said afterwards, that his loss consisted in 50 killed and 300 wounded.'
Luckily he added,' this will appear incredible :'. all the world was certainly of his mind with regard to this last point.
“ In the same report it is stated, the Anglo-Ruspans committed the greatest excesses in the villages which they occupied during the action; the poor Batavian peasants were masacred and burnt in their houses with women and children; several villages are still on fire, and the English in particular distinguished themselves by their cruelty.” It is the duty of an historian to contradict imputations which are as false as they are serious. Three villages it is true were burnt, Sehorel, Schoreldam, and Crabbendam. The first was set on fire by howlt: zers during the action : but if this is a subject of regret, it certainly is not one of reproach. Schoreldam was set on fire by the fire of the French during the time the English were in poffeffion of it, and the ac*cident was disadvantageous to the latter ; but at the same time it would be unjuft to attribute it to the former as a crime. Crabbendam was intentionally burnt by the English in the evening of the 19th, because, as we may be convinced by turning our eyes to the map, this village was much too near to their position, and might lave covered the approach and greatly favoured the attack of the enemy in this part.