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THE CONGRESS OF ERFURTH.
24. INTERVIEW BETWEEN NAPOLEON AND THE CZAR AT
It had become evident to Napoleon that the Spanish insurrection was assuming a magnitude too serious and formidable to be crushed by other means than the largest force that he could collect. The surrender at Baylen and defeat of Junot in the open field at Vimiero, together with the successful defence of Zaragoza, gave undisguised delight to those who had succumbed at Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland. Austria was now under the administration of Count de Stadion, a man of intelligence, but very anti-Gallican; and the Archduke Charles was at the head of the Council of War of that Empire, and had shown his accustomed activity in reorganising the Imperial army, and placing the landwehr, amounting to 300,000 men, in a state of respectable efficiency. Prussia had been treated with much generosity since the termination of the campaign, but Napoleon was too sensible of the firm hostility of the entire German people to his authority to be doubtful as to the course they would adopt in any reverse that might befall his arms. Russian friendship, therefore, was at this moment his most necessary security, and he determined on proposing a personal interview with Alexander. The Conqueror bad flattered himself that he had by his address at Tilsit obtained a very considerable influence over the mind of the Czar, and he resolved to turn this ascendancy to account at a moment when he saw that he had in reality to trust the safety of his empire to the generosity of his Russian brother.
Erfurth was the town agreed upon for this conference, and there, on the 27th of September, the two Sovereigns met. In every matter, great or small, the mind of Napoleon showed that attention to de. tails, and that activity in their prosecution, which are characteristic of minds of the first order. Accordingly, the Grand-Marshal of liis Court was instructed to look to the proper guards, ceremonies, lodgement, subsistence, and police of all the sovereigns and ministers who were to be called upon to assist at this grand interview, and that never-absent resource of French amusement, the drama, was provided for, by sending a company of the Théâtre-Français, from Paris, to give nightly representations of the best tragedies a id comedies before the royal and noble company. The Emper or Alexander reached Weimar late in the evening of the 26th, and at 10 o'clock next morning the two Sovereigns met on the highwly between the villages of Ottsted and Nora. They both alighted from their horses and embraced ; and then, after an interchange of civi ities and gorgeous presents, both mounted their borses again a d rode side by side into Erfurth, amidst the roar of artillery and 1 le acclamations of 10,000 troops. A crowd of princes and infer ir potentates swelled the train, a brilliant cortège of marshals, genert s, diplomatists, and statesmen were assembled, and, for a fortnig t, nothing, to the superficial gazer, could exceed the splendid cordial y of the pageant. It is related that, at one of the theatrical represen
1808.7 NAPOLEON PREPARES FOR THE CONQUEST OF SPAIN. 125
tions, which both Sovereigns witnessed from the same box, the tragedy of Edipus was performed, in which occurs the line
“ L'amitié d'un grand-homme est un bienfait des dieux ;"
and, no sooner was it pronounced, than Alexander turned to Napoleon and gave him his hand, amidst the thundering plaudits of all the courtiers present.
But it was not for such courtesies and amusements that this assemblage had been brought together. What passed, however, between Napoleon and Alexander was not reduced to writing, and nothing has transpired regarding it, except that the former admitted at St. Helena that he clearly stated his objection to his Imperial brother's views upon Constantinople. At length, on the 14th of October, the two Emperors took an affectionate leave of each other, when Napoleon returned to Paris, and Alexander to Poland. One overt act, indeed, resulted from this conference, in an agreement to propose peace to England; and, accordingly, on the 21st of October, two officers, one a Frenchman and the other a Russian, arrived at Dover with a flag of truce. The issue of this proposal was announced by King George III., in His Majesty's “ Declaration” of the 15th of December, which announced that “the overtures made to His Majesty by the Governments of Russia and France have not led to negotiations,” &c.
Napoleon, on his return to the capital, at once prepared vigorously for the conquest of Spain, and resolved to place himself at the head of an army for this purpose. He called back troops from Germany, Italy, and elsewhere, in order to assemble a force of 100,000 or 120,000 men; and, in a gasconading spirit, he gave directions that the soldiers returned from Portugal under Junot should form a part. He summoned troops from the Princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, and required his obedient Corps Législatif to call out the Conscription of 1809, and even a portion of that of 1810. The great difficulty was to provide the money required for setting in motion these vast levies, with all the clothing, sustenance and material they required; but he overcame the finances as he overcame armies, by resolute and determined will, so that, after discussing all difficulties with his finance minister, M. Mollien, he exclaimed : “ Voilà les baisseurs vaincus."
25. NAVAL WAR - CRUISE OF ADMIRAL GANTHEAUME. Such had been Napoleon's exertions since the battle of Trafalgar, that the spring of this year saw him in possession of 80 sail of the line, including 20 ships recently ordered to be laid down at Antwerp and other ports. In Brest, a squadron of 8 men-of-war and 4 frigates was in the course of the summer made ready for sea. A squadron of 6 sail of-the-line, with some large and powerful frigates, was also prepared for a start from the roads of the Isle d'Aix. The naval yards of Toulon, Venice, and other Mediterranean ports, were
DEPARTURE OF THE ENEMY'S SQUADRON.
in full activity, and Vice-Admiral Gantheaume commanded 10 sail at anchor in Toulon harbour.
Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan was off Rochefort with 7 menof-war, and, in order the more effectually to enforce the blockade, he anchored his ships for the winter in Basque roads. Getting short of provisions, however, the British Admiral quitted his ground to meet some victuallers which had been ordered to carry him supplies, and the state of the weather prevented his getting these till the 18th of January. On the 17th, Contre-Amiral Allemand discovered that only a frigate and a brig watched the port, and, taking advantage of the wind, he accordingly put to sea with the “ Majestueux," 100, “ Ajax,” 74, “Jemmappes,” 74, “Lion," 74, “Magnanime,” 74, “Suffien,” 74, and a frigate and brig-corrette. It was not till nearly a week afterwards, on the 23rd, that Sir Richard heard of the departure of the enemy's squadron, when he hastened to get on the track of the Straits, which he rightly judged to have been the course steered by the French squadron; but he did not reach Gibraltar till the 10th of February. The same contrariety of weather which had beset Sir Richard had assailed the French Admiral, and M. Allemand was obliged to send back the “Jemmappes” to Rochefort in a crippled condition ; but, nevertheless, proceeded on his course with his remaining 5 sail, and passed through the Straits on the 26th of January unseen from the Rock, and not encountered in his entire progress by any British cruiser, so that he anchored safely in the road of Toulon on the 6th of February. On the 7th, Admiral Gantheaume, with his own squadron and L'Allemand's united, amounting to 15 sail of the line with frigates, sailed out of harbour in convoy of 7 transports, having on board troops, ordnance, stores, and provisions, and arrived off the island of Corfú on the 23rd, where he landed his soldiers and stores. On the fol. lowing day, the French Admiral shifted his flag to the quickest sailer, and running down to the latitude of Sicily, returned through the lonian Islands to Corfu on the 15th of March. On the 16th, having rehoisted his flag on board the “ Commerce de Paris,” he again set sail with his whole fleet, and running along the coast of Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia, re-anchored in the road of Toulon on the 10th of April, having made a brilliant cruise, but without any result, except the safe landing of the troops, for he had neither encountered a foe, nor added a cockboat to the Imperial navy. The French fleet had been fallen in with at Corfu by the British ship, “ Porcupine,” 22, the Hon. Captain Duncan, and the “Spartan," tuuching at Cagliari, learned that Gantheaume had been seen steering to the southward. These reports were forthwith despatched to the British Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, who was at Marit mo already in quest of the enemy. Lord Collingwood immediately stood after them to the Bay of Naples. Not finding them there, he thought to meet with them off the island of Sicily, and arrived at Syrac use on the 21st. On the next day he sailed into the Adriatic, but did not hear that the French had quitted it till the 28th. He then put the head of the fleet to the westward, but it was the end of A pril 1808. ] EXTRAORDINARY POSITION OF THE HOSTILE FLEETS. 127
before he received intelligence that M. Gantheaume had returned with all his fleet to the harbour of Toulon.
It was a very extraordinary circumstance that these hostile fleets should, for so long a time, have been at sea and missed each other ; for, on the 16th of March, they were not above a degree apart, and continued to approach each other until one made a turn towards the coast of Tripoli, and the other towards Sicily. It has been thought that, had the British Admiral steered straight for Toulon, while the French Admiral continued his cruise, he might have brought it to a disagreeable termination. Lord Collingwood, however, in his correspondence, admits that he did not comprehend the object of his movements, and was distracted by contradictory intelligence, which was often fabricated for the purpose of deception. There is no doubt, however, that he was most eager in his pursuit, but Gantheaume was as anxious to avoid an interview as the British Admiral to get sight of him. On the 23rd of March, Collingwood issued a general order, directing how the ships under his command were to act on first getting sight of the French fleet, but the disappointment occasioned by these fruitless efforts preyed upon his health, and greatly contributed to shorten his days.
26. RUSSIAN AND SWEDISH FLEETS IN THE BALTIC. Early in August the Russian fleet, consisting of “Blagordath,"120, “ Gabriel," 118, “ Amgatten,” 74, “Boreas,” 74, ~ Eagle,” 74, “ Michael,” 74, “ North Star,” 74, “Sevolod,” 74, “ Sta Anna,” 74, “ Argus,” 50, “Hero,” 50, “Rapid,” 50, together with 12 frigates, corvettes and cutters, all under the command of Admiral Hanichoff, sailed from Cronstadt, and on the 19th arrived in Hango Bay, a port in Swedish Finland. Early in the spring the Czar had published a declaration, calling on Sweden to unite with him in maintaining the principle “ that the Baltic is a close sea, with the guarantee of the coasts against all intruders.” King Gustavus did not, in reply, disavow the obligation imposed on him by treaty to assert the neutrality of the North, but required that the French troops should be called upon to move away from its shores, and that the ports of the Baltic should be open to the commerce of the world. If Russia sanctioned the occupation of the seaboard by the French armies, and the destruction of the freedom of trade by French influence, she had no ground to stand upon as against Sweden. The brave but unfortunate monarch, therefore, resisted the advances of Russia, remarking with great truth, “that no government is any longer left to its own light and experience; no people to their own lawful industry.” The Czar, therefore, now declared war both against Sweden and Great Britain.
The British Admiral, Sir James Saumarez, was at this time at anchor off the island of Langland, in the Great Belt, but RearAdmiral Sir Samuel Hood, with the “ Centaur,” 74, and “ Implacable,” 74, was with the Swedish squadron of 7 sail of the line, in the roads of Oro, under Admiral Nauchhoff; and on the 22nd
ADMIRAL SAUMAREZ JOINS THE COMBINED FLEET. [A.D.
4 more Swedish men-of-war joined their Admiral at that anchorage. On the 23rd, in the afternoon, the Russian fleet, making a very formidable appearance, stood close into the roads. On the 25th, the Swedish fleet, in company with the “Centaur” and “ Implacable,” went out of the roads of Oro in pursuit of the Russians, who counted 23 sail, and proceeded off Hango Head. Admiral Nauchhoff, having despatched the “ Frederic-Adolph,” 70, with the sick to Carlscrona, commanded a fleet consisting at this time of “ Gustav IV. Adolph," 78, Captain Lagerstrale, bearing the Admiral's flag; the “ Uladislaffe," 76, Captain Grubb, the "Aran,” 74, Captain Jagerschold, the “ Dristigheten,” 74, Captain Toruquist, the “ Faderueslandet,” 74, Captain Blessing, the “Adolph-Frederic,” 74, Commodore Jagerfelt, the “ Gustaf III.,” 74, Captain Petterson, the “ Manligheten,” 74, Captain Nordenankar; the “ Forsigtighetan,” 66, Baron Cederstrom; the “ Tapperheten,” 66, Captain Ficerstroud, and the frigates “ Euridice,”46, “ Chapman,” 44, “ Camilla,” 42, “ Bellona," 42, and “ Janamas," 34. The Swedes and British were now acting in close alliance together; the Anglo-Swedish fleet, therefore, consisted of 12 men-of-war and 5 frigates, mounting 1,156 guns, while the Russian feet mounted 1,118 guns, so that there was no great disparity between them; nevertheless, Admiral Hannichoff thought it his duty to avoid an action, and made all sail away. The sailing of this mixed squadron of ships, old and new, of different kinds, and having all sorts of crews on board, rendered the chase very scattered ; but on the 26th, at 6 in the morning, the British 74, “ Implacable," Captain Byam Martin, came alongside the leewardmost ship of the enemy's line, the “ Sevolod." 74, Captain Rudnew, and opened fire upon her. The British ship having brought her antagonist within pistol-shot, commenced an action with so much vigour and with such decided effect, that, in less than half-an-hour, the “ Sevolod ” hauled down her pendant, for her colours had been shot away in action. It was at about noon when the Russian Admiral bore up with his whole fleet to the rescue, and Sir Samuel, observing this, threw out a signal of recall. Hannichoff immediately sent a frigate to tow the “ Sevolod,” and then hauled his wind and ran with his fleet into Rogerswick roads, where he anchored, followed by the two British 74's, for the “ Centaur” had now come up, thinking Hannichoff had sent out a division of boats to tow his disabled 74 into the road, when Sir Samuel Hood determined to prevent her being carried away. By great activity and perseverance the “ Centaur“ ran the “ Sevolod” on board just as she was about to enter the port, and discharged her starboard side upon the Russians with destructive effect, and the “ Sevolod” was finally surrendered, set fire to, and destroyed, having lost in the encounter 303 killed and wounded. On the 30th the combined fleet was joined by Vice- Admiral Sir James Saumarez with “ Victory,” 100, “ Mars," 74, “ Goliath,” 74, and “ Africa,” 64, and Rear-Admiral Hannichoff, seeing the snperiority of the force, and nothing doubting their enterprise, moored the Russian fleet by cables to the shore, while strong batteries were erected and manned to defend the entrance to the harbour. Sir