Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

254 •

DEPARTURE OF THE POPE FROM ITALY.

A.D.

troops disembark, yet they did not open fire. The General formed up his men, moved forward, and invested the castle, which surrendered upon terms the same afternoon. Cerigo, Cephalonia, and Ithaca successively adopted the same course, and acceded to similar terms of capitulation, under which the Septinsular Republic was restored, and brought to nearly the same condition of independence as it remains at present.

34. NAPOLEON ANNEXES ROME TO HIS EMPIRE. Napoleon now formally annexed the patrimony of St. Peter to his kingdom of Italy. The French general, Miollis, in command of the Castle of St. Angelo, entered the Palace of the Quirinal suddenly on the 17th of May, and with great violence and disrespect made the Pope prisoner; when the temporal domains were forth with seized under an Imperial decree, and Rome declared to be the second city of Napoleon's empire. The mighty conqueror stripped His Holiness of all his temporal power, notwithstanding a lavish use of ecclesiastical thunder, and merely allowed him to retain his spiritual dignities. On the 8th of June Pius VII. was ordered to depart from the City of the Seven Hills, and, accordingly, took his way towards Avignon. In November a deputation of the Roman nobility repaired to Paris to lay at the Emperor's feet their homage and gratitude for this release from elerical government. Half a century has since rolled away, and the question of the temporal possessions of the Pope again oceupies the attention of the world. Perhaps another half century may pass before such an act of truly sound policy as the removal of a pseudoreligious temporal monarchy from the face of the earth shall be consummated; before the so long barely tolerated earthly crown of a petty sovereign, with its antiquated conclave of cardinals and mischievous society of Propaganda, shall be exchanged for the really influential position of a Supreme Pontiff, to whom united Christianity might look up with respect and confidence for the concentration of the powers of pure religion and useful learning against the evil influences of infidelity and immorality. The name of Roman Catholic sounds to our common sense a paradox. We see every day that the sect becomes more Roman and less Catholic throughout the world; but how largely must it increase in substantial influence, and how much of its ancient splendour would it obtain, if it would become strictly Catholic by ceasing to be Roman altogether!

35. WAR RENEWED BETWEEN RUSSIA AND TURKEY — BATTLE

OF TARTARIZZA. The peace of Tilsit had for the moment the influence of an armistice upon the conflict still going on between the Turks and Russians; but the subsequent revolutions at Constantinople so crippled the Porte that it would seem as if the teeth of the Otto

1809.] HAUGHTY ANNOUNCEMENT OF PROSOROWSKY.

255

mans were altogether drawn, that the sick man” was already in extremis, and likely to receive at this time the coup de grâce from his traditional adversary. On the other hand, the war in Finland having come to an end, and the French Emperor being now fully occupied with the serious armaments against his power in Austria and Spain, and apparently indifferent about either the Czar or the Sultan, or the results of a campaign in Wallachia and Servia, Alexander quietly reinforced his army on the Danube, and ordered it to be carried across that river.

The Russians, nevertheless, were far from reaping that benefit from the internal distractions of Turkey which, from their overwhelming superiority of disposable force at this juncture, might have been anticipated. 125 battalions of foot, 95 squadrons of horse, and 10,000 Cossacks were placed under the command of Prince Prosorowsky, whose orders were to march into the heart of the Ottoman Empire and threaten its downfall. This prince, however, though he had been an able general, was little acquainted with the peculiarities of Turkish warfare, and, at a moment when everything depended upon vigorous action, did little but pass across the Danube. The advanced guard, indeed, under Prince Miloradovitch, defeated the enemy at Slobosca and blockaded Giourschef, where he was subsequently repulsed in an attempt to take the place by escalade, and lost 2,000 or 3,000 men. In Servia the war had been kept alive against the Turks by Czerny George, who now openly espoused the Russian cause, and the Porte, weakened by late events, had not sufficient force to keep the field against both enemies. Sultan Mahmoud, therefore, adopted the plan of merely protecting himself against the hostile demonstrations of Russia by throwing strong garrisons into the frontier fortresses, and carrying his entire disposable force against Czerny George, whom he caused to be attacked in the month of May at Nizza, to which place he had penetrated, and he was, accordingly, obliged to fall back again under the cannon of Belgrade, and to retire his army behind the Morava. Prosorowsky, however, marched down in support of his Servian allies, but failed with great loss in attempting to carry some fortresses. However, General Nenandovitch, with a Russian corps, entered Bosnia and stormed the Turkish entrenchments there, obliging the army to retire from them behind the Drina. Such was the condition of the contest at the beginning of August.

Prince Prosorowsky now haughtily announced that he would cross the Danube with 40,000 men, and advance to the foot of the Balkan; and, in pursuance of this resolve, he passed over the river at Galatz to carry his threat into execution. The old Russian Marshal was, however, staggered at the progress of the war in Germany, and with the success of Napoleon at Wagram, followed as it had been by the submission of Austria, and though it could not be said to concern in the least his campaign against the Turks, his army rested again perfectly quiescent. The Turks availed themselves of the repose of the Prince immediately, in order to overwhelm the Servians, and the Grand- Vizier boldly crossed at Giurgevo on the 256

WALCHEREN EXPEDITION.

[A.D.

4th of August, retook Nizza, and threatened Belgrade. Prosorowsky was much chagrined at this inroad, and his health broke down under the anxiety and fatigues of his command, so that about this period he died, when Prince Bagration succeeded to the command of the Russian army. In order to bring back the GrandVizier, Bagration forth with crossed the Danube at the embouchure of the Pruth, near Galatz, which opened a way for the Russian flotilla to enter into the mouth of the Danube, and then invested Ismail, which surrendered on the 26th of September. He then advanced against Silistria, and on his way surprised the entrenched camp of Khoref Pacha at Bassavata. The Vizier, however, contrived to throw in 15,000 Turks, under Pechlivar, for the defence of that fortress, and the Russians were consequently obliged to limit their operations against the place to a blockade, during the continuance of which their army was seriously diminished by the unhealthiness of the autumn season on the banks of the Danube. At the end of October the Grand-Vizier boldly took the field, and on the 3rd of November came up and fought a bloody battle with the Russians at Tartarizza, in which there is no doubt that the Russians were worsted, for the result of it was the raising of the blockade of Silistria. After this Bagration withdrew across the Danube, and took up winter quarters in Bessarabia, leaving a single corps entrenched near Hirsova, in order to maintain their ground on the south bank of the Danube. Some little lustre was, however, shed on the Russian armies, by which honour was derived to the first campaign of Prince Bagration; Brahilow having, after a long investment, surrendered on the 21st of November to the division of General Essen, by which a secure means was obtained of passing troops across the Danube at any future time.

In Georgia, the Russian army, under General Tomasof, seized and held possession of Poti, at the embouchure of the river Phasis, notwithstanding all the endeavours of the Pacha of Trebizonde to save it. The place was strategically important, from being situated at the confluence of the Phasis with the Black Sea; and it strengthened the Russians in their further relations with Persia.

36. WALCHEREN EXPEDITION.

An expedition of a formidable character was undertaken by the British this year against the heart of the continental dominions of France. Antwerp had been made into a very extensive naval arsenal by the orders of Napoleon, who discovered that te had, by the acquisition of the Belgian provinces, not only become master of the entrance of the Scheldt, but also the possessor of a capire cious basin or harbour in which a fleet of 20 sail of the line could lie in perfect readiness for sea, almost within sight of the British shores; that Antwerp was in effect the true key of England, threatenirg an entire eastern seaboard, on which there was no corresponding estuary or harbour for a fleet. The attention of the Emperor having been directed to the advantages possessed by this city fir

1809.]

WALCHEREN EXPEDITION.

257

offensive operations, very considerable activity had lately become apparent in her arserals. In the summer of this year Rear-Admiral Missiessy had at anchor under his command, to the south-east of Cadsand, “Le Charlemagne,” 74, bearing the Admiral's Aag; « L’Albanais,” 74, L'Anversois,” 74, “ Le César,” 74, “ Le Commerce de Lyon,” 74, "Le Dalmate,” 74, “ Le Dantzig,” 74, “ Le Duguesclin,” 74, “ Le Pultusk,” 74, and “ Le Ville de Berlin,” 74. There were also at this time on the stocks of Antwerp 6 ships of war of 80 guns each, and 3 of 74. The number of slips for building ships in this arsenal had been increased to nineteen, all situated close under the protective fire of the citadel, and at this moment not one of these slips was without the keel of a vessel of war, large or small. It was understood that Napoleon had expended already on the fortifications, basin, dockyard, and arsenal of Antwerp no less a sum than two and a half millions sterling. This aggressive entrepôt now, therefore, constituted an important object of attack for Great Britain, either to be destroyed, or temporarily held as a diversion in favour of Austria. It is agreed by all military writers, that such was the weakness of the position of Antwerp at this moment, that had the British advanced rapidly either on shore across Beveland, or by the waters of the Scheldt, pursuing vigorously the French fleet, which must have fled for safety under the guns of the citadel, all the forts and defences of the river must have been taken by surprise, and would have fallen. The fortress itself, badly garrisoned, and paralysed by a vigorous attack, must have succumbed in terror. The coast was so denuded of troops, that nothing could have impeded the march of an army such as was now. preparing against it-whether it should move by the route abovenamed, or, what might have been under the circumstances preferable, land on some part of the coast of Belgium opposite Bruges, and march by Ghent, and along the high road to the Tête de Flandre. This might have been accomplished in three days, during which the fleet might have pushed along the estuary, and silenced all the intermediate forts capable of impeding a subsequent retreat if necessary. The instructions drawn up for the military portion of the expedition contemplated its being landed at Zartoleit, which is eighteen miles from Antwerp, and it was calculated that leaving the Downs on the 4th, and losing no time in hesitation, they might summon Antwerp on the 12th. Everything in such an enterprise depended upon secrecy and despatch, and under such a commanding genius as Napoleon, whose arm alone possessed the power to wielă such a thunderbolt, it was perfectly practicable-in facr, he admitted as much at St. Helena, but thought that a landing might have been preferably effected at Williamstadt, and that from that point a coup-de-main would have succeeded.

It was clear that the object contemplated depended not only on a considerable and well-appointed force, naval and military, but in a very eminent degree upon the character and qualities of the commanders. The naval part of the expedition was placed under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan, an officer of consia

VOL. II.

258

WALCHEREN EXPEDITION.

(A.D.

derable experience, and of recognised energy. The command of the army was intrusted to Lieutenant-General the Earl of Chatham, an officer (of no military experience, and utterly unknown to fame), reputed to possess a vigorous understanding, for which, as the son and brother of the most eminent statesmen of the age, men readily gave him credit. He was a man whose habits of life were proverbial for nerveless indolence, so that he enjoyed the soubriquet of the late Lord Chatham. Who was the insidious friend who brought him out of his obscurity to jeopardise the little reputation be ever had ; whether he had studied the theory of war after a fashion, and fancied himself born to inherit distinction and honour; or whether his political associates put him forward to restore his narrow and somewhat embarrassed fortune, have not been remembered; but there can be no doubt that his appointment to the command of the army was a fatal blunder, and the cause of its entire failure. So much has been recorded in these “ Annals ” to show the supreme importance of activity, energy, and untiring industry in high military command, that it is scarcely necessary to do more than state that all these qualities were wanting in the General selected to carry into effect one of the best prepared enterprises ever devised to uphold the policy of Great Britain.

It was in the latter end of May that the British Government first resolved to send an expedition to the Scheldt. The General Commanding the army in chief, at this juncture, was Sir David Dundas, who had, indeed, reported that 15,000 men could scarcely be spared from the requisites of home service for any foreign expedition whatever. Great exertions were, nevertheless, demanded at his hands, and made, so that before the 8th of June the muster rolls of the disposable force showed on paper an army of no less than 40,000 men. Before the end of May the news of the battle of Essling arrived to cheer the allied cause : and the information was not to be doubted that Napoleon had withdrawn from the Antwerp defences so many troops for his necessities on the Danube that the utmost number left to garrison the forts did not exceed 2,400 men, of whom more than one-half were invalids or non-effectives. It required the exact counterpart of the mighty spirit then working on the island of Lob-awe, for his own gigantic object, to prepare a force of the magnitude of the British conjunct expedition, which was to include a battering train of 70 large breaching guns and 74 mortars, and a fleet of 37 sail of the line, and all the stores requisite for an inmense armament, and this within the very earliest period of time. As it was, the news of the battle of Wagram and of the armistice of Znaim actually took the preparations by surprise, for it was the 28th of July before the fleet quitted the Downs.

On the 29th, in the morning, the two Commanders-in-chief, with Rear-Admiral Sir Gordon Keats, and Lieutenant-General Sir John i Hope, reached the enemy's waters nearly opposite Zeirickzee, in the Roompoot channel, between Noord-Beveland, and Schonwen. ! The following morning Rear-Admiral Otway arrived with the left wing of the army, under Lieutenant-General Sir Eyre Coote, at

« ZurückWeiter »